Can Emojis Make You a Better Communicator in the Workplace?

Spike Team
By Spike Team, Updated on May 14, 2020, 4 min read
using emoji in email communiation

Believe it or not, emojis are the fastest growing language in the world with 92% of people using emoji. These famous characters are replacing whole words in online communication and are even becoming popular in the workplace.


Emoji can help you accurately articulate your words both personally and professionally. However, it can be difficult to express your emotions and even tone of voice when chatting with friends or coworkers online. Emojis help you to clearly and efficiently communicate your meaning and point when sending a message or an email to someone you work with.


Let’s dive a little deeper to explore how emoji is used in the workplace and the do’s and don’ts to when it’s appropriate to send a ? or ?.



A Quick History of the Emoji 

Do you remember when “:-)” made its breakthrough on the internet? Expressing yourself through ASCII Art has been around for decades, but has since phased out since the creation of emoji. Emojis are actual pictures, instead of the typographic symbols. The name “emoji” is a Japanese word  — e (絵, “picture”) + moji (文字, “character”) = emoji.

The Unicode Consortium officially recognized 2,823 emojis in 2018 and that number will only grow year-over-year as the people of the internet request more emojis on their keyboards.


If that doesn’t convince you how popular emoji use has become over the years, consider this: In 2015, Oxford Dictionaries actually named the Face with Tears of Joy ? the Word of the Year.



Emojis are replacing words and giving you more opportunities to express yourself over text and even email. But if you use emojis with friends and family, should you really use it with your coworkers and boss?


Emojis Create Richer and More Productive Conversations

Up to 70% of communication comes from nonverbal cues. Since our digital communication is so text heavy, emojis can add emotion back into these online conversations.  


For example, simply saying “Great job.” to your colleague who delivered an excellent presentation will get your point across, but using emojis will give your email the flare it deserves — “Great job ?” — to represent your real meaning that you think they did fantastic work.  


Being able to bring emotion into your written communication by using emojis is also known as emoji competence. The concept was coined by University of Toronto professor and author of The Semiotics of Emoji, Marcel Danes. Danes defines emoji competence as the ability “to intersperse emoji images into a written text in order to imprint a positive emotional tone into it”.


Simply put, emojis can help you have richer, more meaningful conversations, and helps reduce the receiver from negatively interpreting your message.


In addition to clarifying your tone of voice and adding some color to the conversation, emojis also speed up digital conversations and allow you and your team to replace long phrases or sentences with a simple ? or ?.


But even though emojis are widely used and accepted, in a study published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal, researchers found that using smiley faces in work emails can make you (the sender) seem incompetent upon first impressions. So why are emojis use creating this perception? It all comes down to context.


Context Is King ?: When And Where To Use Emoji

When it comes to using emojis to communicate at work, it all depends on who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about. Before filling your email with them, ask yourself: What is your relationship with this person? How long have you been working together? What is the subject of your conversation? Is it casual or serious?


For example, if you’re a business owner of an agency, you most likely communicate differently with your team members than you do with your clients. In this case, you may find it acceptable to send emojis in your email communication with your team. But when you’re conversing with your clients, you most likely don’t sign off the email with ?.


As much as the context depends on who you’re talking to, it also depends on the subject of your conversation. Here’s another example: You may include ? in an email when thanking your employee for submitting her report under deadline. However, if you’re sending an email to the same employee to give negative feedback or to inform her of a change to the team structure, you will want to avoid using an emoji all together since the context of this conversation is more serious.


Here are a few guidelines you can follow to ensure you’re using emojis with the right people at the right time:


  • Refrain from using emojis in your email communication until you know the communication style of the person on the other end.
  • Follow by example. If the person you are chatting with over email uses emojis in their messages, then you can assume it’s acceptable to use them as well.
  • Establish an understanding of what emojis mean if you have an internal team that communicates online on a daily basis. This will help reduce incorrect interpretations and will increase productivity when it comes to quick conversations or even approvals.


Overall, emojis are a great way to bring emotion and some fun into your online communication. They help you easily express emotions like excitement, gratitude, and recognition in the workplace. Just remember to always think of the context of your message and relationship with the receiver before going full speed with your emoji use. 

And now you can always have access to your favorite emojis right in your email inbox. Add emojis (and even GIFs!) directly from Spike on both mobile and desktop. Get started with Spike.

Spike Team
Spike Team The Spike team posts about productivity, time management, and the future of email, messaging and collaboration.

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