Elon Musk is a visionary in many areas, but his memo on acronyms at SpaceX will be forever remembered as one of the greatest workplace satires of all time. The memo, aptly titled “Acronyms Seriously Suck,” explained that “excessive use of made up acronyms is a significant impediment to communication.” Musk then goes on for four paragraphs on why acronyms are ruining the culture at SpaceX.
Some thinkers would have us believe that emojis, like emoticons before them, are similarly ruining office communication. Many professionals point to the ambiguity and potential offensiveness of emojis as reasons to avoid them, and they’re not wrong. Emojis can easily be misinterpreted, and while their novelty makes them exciting, it can also detract from the message you’re trying to communicate to a colleague or client.
Of course, this means that using emojis at work is not mandatory, since they are still unacceptable in many contexts. However, emojis can provide helpful subtext or levity to a situation, allowing the recipient of a chat or email to know how it should be interpreted. If you are going to venture into the world of emoji-laden workplace communication, keep these things in mind.
Check Culture Fit
At this point, most workplaces accept emojis in informal modes of communication, like Slack or Google Hangouts. However, if you work in a formal or more conservative industry, it’s a good idea to wait for someone else to send the first emoji. If you have Slack, you can always look at the chat history and see if emojis are a common addition to your public channels.
If you are chatting or emailing, it’s best to wait for someone senior to you to send an emoji before you try out your latest string of sunflowers and laughing-while-crying emojis. Also, it should be noted that while emojis are often acceptable in interoffice communication, you should be careful before inserting them into emails or correspondence with clients, partners, or customers.
Double-Check Your Emoji Meanings
We’ve given this piece of advice before, but for good reason. Studies show that emojis can have different meanings depending on the country you’re in, the device you use, or even the conversation prior to the emoji. There are some commonly-confused emojis you can avoid, but regardless of the emoji you’re using, make sure your recipient will understand the emotion and intent it represents before you send.
Use Smileys to Soften Bad News
It has been shown that one of the most common use-cases for emojis at work is to show that a message is positive. To paraphrase The Atlantic, the problem with work chat is often that electronic messages are devoid of inflection. In longform writing like emails, you have the space to compensate for this lack of subtext by using extra positive words or phrases. But when you’re sending a quick Gchat to a colleague, you don’t have space to fully compensate for the aloof nature of shorthand text conversation. That’s when a positive, smiling emoji will go a long way in building positive interactions and connections with your colleagues.
Make Sure Everyone Is in on the Joke
Another helpful way to use emojis at work is to indicate that you’re joking. Below are some of the most common emojis that indicate sarcasm, but you can use a variety of emojis to show you’re just kidding. Remember, though, that this usage is probably best reserved for colleagues you know well, not your manager at a brand-new gig. Do you use emojis at work? Tell us more about your experience in the comments below.