As recently as five years ago, using emojis in business communication risked making you appear flighty or unserious.
Today, we live in a world where emojis are widely accepted at work and elsewhere. Business texts and emails are frequently studded with the symbols for 🤔 “Thinking Face,” 👌“OK Hand,” 💯 “Hundred Points” and perhaps even 🕺 “Woman (or Man) Dancing.”
If this development makes you feel a little 😱 “Face Screaming in Fear,” take heart. Websites such as Emojipedia, where you can find meanings for the 3,000 (and counting) emojis in current use, are there to help you.
But before you send your boss a whimsical 💩 “Smiling Pile of Poo” — oddly, this is one of the most popular emojis — please review these guidelines.
Know your audience
If emojis are OK at your workplace, you can almost always feel comfortable adding a cheery 👍 “Thumbs Up” or wry 😒 “Unamused Face” to messages you shoot off to co-workers around your same age. But think twice when communicating with anyone whom you don’t know very well or who is old enough to be your parent. Maybe wait until they send you a 😂 “Face With Tears of Joy” first.
Stay positive, be clear
Emojis can be wonderful for humorously conveying subtleties of emotion, appearing friendlier and more approachable, and softening the blow of critiques. Some companies have even designed their own custom emojis to speed communication and build team spirit. But these little cartoons can also be ambiguous. Did your 😉 “Winking Face” signify “I’m confident you agree with me” or “Ha ha, I didn’t really mean what I just told you”? Always make sure your written message says exactly what you intend.
Don’t get too chummy
Certain popular emojis (think 😘 “Face Blowing a Kiss” or the 💋 “Kiss Mark”) risk getting you into sexual harassment territory. If your company has a list of acceptable emojis, stick to those. Otherwise, use the ones that are clearly nonsexual and easily understood by most people in most situations.
Moderation is key
Finally, emojis are fun, lighthearted and can bring a smile to anyone’s face. As the HR folks say, they increase engagement. But employing too many of them at one time can turn that smile upside down. Nobody wants to decipher an email composed mostly, or entirely, of emojis. Use your words!