A couple of years ago it would have been considered risky
We just had World Emoji Day. In case you missed it, it was Sunday July 17. Did you celebrate what is considered to be the universal language of our generation?
Whatever you think about emojis, they are useful. There is the universal application for a start — that’s huge. You don’t need to go to language school to understand what someone who speaks a different lingo to you is saying in emoji. Happy, sad, angry, scared, shocked, the is a face for every emotion. Lots of faces actually; the Unicode Consortium counts 1851 official emojis.
“Emoji have come to embody a core aspect of living in a digital world that is visually driven, emotionally expressive, and obsessively immediate,” – Oxford Dictionary
Emojis first appeared in 2011, so they have only been around five years, but man have they stuck. I bet you remember the day that you mother first used one. That simultaneous feeling of amazement and panic. Emojis are no longer the secret code of the young and hip; anyone can use them.
Before the official emoji, many of us would use keyboard commands to communicate a smile, a wink, or a frown. :). ;). :(. These were certainly only used in informal situations, and mostly just in text messages to friends. The emoji has come a long way since then. You see them in text, in emails. But generally not in the workplace.
Slack, the workplace communication tool that has taken the business world by storm, has a slew of emojis. In a study of over 1,000 Americans last year, it was found that 76 percent had used an emoji to communicate to a co-worker. Most of these were the standard “happy face,” but there were a lot of thumbs up in there too.
The emotional connection
In the same study, 78 percent of the workers asked reported that they felt that they were not emotionally connected enough with the people that they work with. Thirty-three percent said that they wished there was an easier way to express emotions at work without it being considered inappropriate. It was also noted that in feeling more emotionally connected with others would lead to a less stressed and more productive workplace.
According to Jim Patterson, CEO at Cotap, the risk of being misunderstood is high when we communicate digitally. Humor can be lost, and ever worse, offense can be taken if a person misinterprets the intentions of another’s written quip.
We get a lot of the meaning of communication in the body language of the speaker. That’s why email can be so difficult sometimes. While it is true that to some, the emoji will seem silly, frivolous and not meant for serious work communication, that can be a very limiting attitude.
Many companies today are realizing that teams that communicate well do better. Simple as that. Combined with text and punctuation, emojis can take on some of the parts of communication that body language conveys in speech. There is no amount of fuddy-duddy attitude that can weigh up against this truth: an emoji is an complement to written language that allows for a deeper understanding of the communicator’s demeanor, attitude, and mood.
“People tend to use emoticons when there’s some kind of what linguists call a face threat—something kind of awkward or potentially offensive, or somebody could take something the wrong way,” says Lauren Collister, a socio-linguist at the University of Pittsburgh. Further studies in the workplace have shown that emojis are used more to signal how information should be interpreted in order to avoid miscommunication. So it seems that when we use emojis at work, we are not using them to convey emotion as much are we are to ensure understanding and intent.
TL;DR: Thanks to platforms like Slack, workplace communications have evolved. You can use emojis at work. (Although the kissing face might be taking things a bit too far.)
– Tabitha Farrar