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Office Etiquette

Emoticons in the workplace – should we?

THERE IS NO DOUBT EMOTICONS ARE NOW PART OF THE WAY WE COMMUNICATE IN OUR PERSONAL LIVES. BUT SHOULD WE REFRAIN FROM USING THEM IN OUR WORK RELATED COMMUNICATIONS?

Most of us are now inseperable from our mobile phone. We communicate more and more through text messages and social media like facebook. And emoticons (or emoji – see definitions below) are used very commonly by people of all ages to help transmit their emotions to the person they are writing to. As we know, emails and text messages can easily be misunderstood for sounding harsh and cold. So we’ll often add a smiley or another face expression to help the other person understand what mood we are in.

Some statisticsI found some interesting statistics on the use of emojis in this 2015 Emoji Report

« The report found emoji are used by 92 percent of the online population, with gender being a larger factor in emoji use than age. To be specific, 78 percent of women are frequent users of emoji (using them several times per week), while only 60 percent of men use emoji as frequently. »

What I notice at work: Frankly in my line of work, e.g. the energy sector, I would say that smilies are used occasionnally but only between close colleagues. Never are they used in communications with managers. Of course we are talking about a rather conservative environment. So, are small start-up companies with an average employee age below 30 more tolerent to their general use in the workplace? I’d be curious to know. And is age really a determining factor ?

I personnally use emoticons with my friends and family. I very rarely use them in the workplace and if I do it’s in the context of fixing a lunch date or other non serious matter.

There is a difference between personal and work related communications:

  • The human side is very important when we communicate with friends and family. In order to maintain our relaltionships healthy, we often feel the need to add some expression of how we feel when we text or email. We then make sure we are well understood.
  • On the contrary, in the workplace the focus is mostly on performance and not on creating relationships. By using smilies in your work related emails there is a danger that you might be perceived as “I’m having fun” and therefore “I’m not focused on my work”.

Conclusion: This major difference between personal and work communications makes me conclude that it is more appropriate to not use emoticons (and clearly not emoji) in a work context. 

My advice: If you feel something is missing to better convey your message in a more delicate email, you should simply use more words to describe what you want to say. One simple example of what I like to do when I thank someone is add their name – like “Thank you Michael” – to make it more personal and meaningful.

WHAT ARE EMOTICONS:
They express emotions and started out as text images, like ; – ) and : – (
There are now pictorial versions that exist which are called emoji, like 😉 and 🙁

WHAT ARE EMOJI: All the various pictorial symbols that can express just about anything now, variety of which will depend on the mobile device you are using.

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