In your office communications, watch your use of emojis


A smiley face, a monkey, a partying parrot: Does it make sense to use emojis when communicating with colleagues or your boss? – dpa

BERLIN: Hearts, bouquets and thumbs-up signs are flying all over the place, or maybe there’s an eye-roll to express scepticism: Ever since the pandemic and the great deal of time spent working from home, digital communication with colleagues and bosses is now part of the job.

Often, this involves the use of emojis. They are supposed to help to underscore one’s emotions, wishes and comments when using internal office messenger and chat programmes, replacing facial expressions and gesticulation. But while it might feel natural for some, the appropriate usage of emojis is often a balancing act. How many should you use – and when is it too many?

Fewer emojis more power?

In March 2022 the Coller School of Management in Tel Aviv published a study showing that the use of emojis and pictures in emails and chats can make the author look less convincing and influential. In an experiment, a research group found that people who were capable of adequately articulating their views verbally – therefore able to do without the visual support of emojis – were accorded greater power.

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“Studies show that visual messages often are interpreted as a desire for social closeness,” study co-author Elinor Amit said. According to this assumption, less powerful people want closer social contact with others than those who wield more influence.

But does this mean that those people who put value on signalling their power should avoid using emojis? Career counsellor Anne Forster-Berger doesn’t see the matter so strictly. In her view, in particular the members of upper management don’t lose anything by the use of emojis.

“I find that above all they appear more approachable,” she says. But Forster-Berger cautions that there’s a risk that a large number of emojis could lead to misunderstandings, as people sometimes interpret them differently.

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In the digital world, too, there is a difference between relaxed chatting between colleagues and official discussions with senior management and employees. When there's a serious matter being discussed, there is no place for emojis, Forster-Berger believes.

Still, communications trainer Peter Rach points to the positives of the tiny symbols: "During a chat the other person doesn't see my body position or facial expression. An emoji helps in delivering information."

Using your ‘emojination’

Rach notes that in many companies there is a conscious effort to maintain a certain distance. When it comes to weighing whether you should be using emojis at all, it “depends above all on the medium being used to communicate”, the communications trainer says. Is it a more conservative medium like the classic email – or is the team using a messenger service like Slack or Microsoft Teams?

Beyond this, the use of emojis is in part also a question of a person’s age. Not every generation on the job market has grown up with chats, messengers and emojis and is able to move about smoothly in the pool of symbols. Forster-Berger points out: “The use (of emojis) first really got started with the use of smartphones.”

Finally, it must be decided from situation to situation what is appropriate. “The meaning of a commentary evolves with the recipient,” says Rach. Each person must therefore be aware of when a situation calls for gravity and when for fun. – dpa

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