Should you send your coworker a smiley face? How about your client? Does your answer change if you’ve worked with the client two months versus two years?
More than 60 percent of senior managers in a recent study by staffing firm OfficeTeam say it’s acceptable to include emoji in certain work communications. So when is it right to put an emoji in email and when should you steer clear?
According to the study, you can follow these five tips for using both emoji and emoticons:
- Limit your use.
- Consider your audience.
- Evaluate each situation uniquely.
- Stick to what you know (don’t use unfamiliar emoji).
- If you’re worried about using an emoji, opt for saying what you mean instead.
We asked experts around the globe to help us apply these five tips. They helped Mavenlink build this definitive guide to using emoji at work. To learn when it’s right and when it’s time to steer clear, follow these tips for when to use emoji, avoid emoji, and prevent egregious emoji mishaps.
Here is what they said!
👥 Because Face-to-Face Office Time is Low
Howard Davies, Senior Career Expert, Resume Writer Direct, ResumeWriterDirect.com
Email and messaging has become our primary form of internal communication. This has definitely led to the use of emojis quickly being adopted and considered acceptable, even within important staff-wide emails.
🙌 Because Team Morale Is Up
Brandon Schmidt, YDOP
Emojis make an appearance in team-wide emails, when we celebrate on a job well done. The most common would be OK or thumbs up. Although, we use memes and gifs more than emoji in these celebrations.
💤 Because Days Are Long
Nick D'Urso, @dursonj, Women’s Health Diagnostic Sales Specialist, The Nutritional Source
"Working 5-8 hours in an office requires a few jokes."— @dursonj
The benefits of using emojis internally are that you can build excitement in the office. Working 5-8 hours in an office requires a few jokes and emojis to build moral and some motivation. :)
I work in sales and use emojis to send to our team when we make a sale. When someone does a good or a bad job on something we use the appropriate emoji. If I am using the iPhone, I use my favorite emoji, the upside down smiley face. Chat messages are another place we use these.
That said, I think it is only appropriate to use emojis in a professional setting when sending emails internally with your team. I would not send an emoji to a client or a prospect unless I new them well enough.
😑 To Prevent Misinterpretation
Not only are emojis appropriate for modern internal communications; they’re often necessary. With in-person meetings and phone calls fading in favor of email, instant message and text, emojis can prevent miscommunications by indicating tone of voice during text-based exchanges. A smile or wink emoji at the end of a message can dramatically alter its meaning. It can prevent a sarcastic exchange from being taken seriously, and vice versa. Emojis can even be appropriate when communicating with clients or customers, depending on their individual personalities and the nature of each exchange.
"Emojis can prevent miscommunications by indicating tone of voice." — @BrianHartPR
Beyond emojis, I often use GIFs and memes throughout the week whenever I feel they can express a point more accurately than written word. They also keep our daily exchanges fun and interesting.
😑 To Make Clients Feel Comfortable
The biggest benefit of the use of emojis in business is the relationship it helps build with the consumer making them feel as though you can be trusted.
I often times find myself using Emojis in my communications regarding business, most often we use them within our team to add a bit of fun to our internal communication channels. Not only do I use them with the team but I often find myself responding to customers emails with emojis, especially when customers reply to our welcome email as it we find that it helps break the ice and make the customer more comfortable.
👎 Avoid Emoji
👮 In Government
I work for the government, so it’s a pretty conservative environment. Most emoji are out; however, I do use smile emoji to thank people and a frown emoji when I have a disappointing answer for them.
👴 With Boomers
Amir Watynski, Owner, Watt Media, Inc.
When emailing clients, we may use typed emojis, such as :-) and :-( as well. We pretty much limit it to those two since many of our clients are baby boomers who don't know other emojis. If we are emailing someone who isn't computer or social media savvy, we will not use any emojis. I once had someone ask what a colon parenthesis is, and since them I am sensitive to this and don't want to confuse my client or make him feel out of touch. We don't text clients much, but when we do we use emojis freely.
🙊 Egregious Emoji Mistakes
<:O vs. Emoji
Howard Davies, Senior Career Expert, Resume Writer Direct, ResumeWriterDirect.com
Actual emoji are a small graphic. Punctuation smiley faces, on the other hand, are emoticons. Being an Englishman working in a U.S. company, I'm a bit more old school than my colleagues and prefer a more formal approach by using emoticons. Emoticons still effectively use the essence of written language: punctuation. Emoji graphics are still a bit too distant from a suitably polite and formal communication method. I’ve begun to approve the use of smileys within company-client emails, after my marketing team reminded me that a friendly informal style helps improve customer experience.
I approve the use of my team signing off an email with: “Resume Writer Direct Team :)”
However, I would not be happy with: “Resume Writer Direct Team 😊”
👿 Breaking Company Rules
Pete Mani, Zolt App
At Zolt App, we just discussed the team rules for using emoji. We follow a few. First, emoji are okay for internal communication (chat, email). Because frankly, who doesn't want happy people expressing themselves with various emojis?! Second, in certain situation, we consider using emojis on social media. We restrict our emoji usage to the basic smiley face, nothing too fancy. :) Third, we use emoji in emails that are to people we know very well, determined on a case by case basis.
In most other cases we do not use emojis because we are a media company, so our message needs to be on point without any ambiguity or emotions.
😕 😯 😖 Overuse
I find emojis tend to be overused by extroverts. So I recommend my clients do an emoji-ectomy! I ask they use one emoji at most. (We find extroverts tend to overuse exclamation points too!)
👾 With New Clients
"Use emojis only in very specific situations if you have a good rapport with someone." —@Eric_Scribblrs
Sometimes I use emojis for work, but only in very specific situations if I have a good rapport with them. Emojis I will sometimes use include thumbs up and smiley face. Emojis that are never appropriate in my opinion are the winky face (can be misconstrued) or things like the poop emoji. Simply not professional.
It’s really important to be aware of the emoji you use because it’s easy to accidentally use the wrong one. For example, on iPhone, the thumbs up is near the middle finger. For this and other reasons, I would never use emoji with new clients; it can seem very unprofessional. For older clients you have a great relationship, I would avoid overusing emoji, which can seem both unprofessional and annoying, just as with exclamation points.
💬 When It Breaks Culture
The key to determining when to use (or not use) emojis is to know your audience. How formal is the organizational culture? Who will be receiving the message? Is your message internal or external? You don't want to be the only person in the office using multiple exclamation marks, because others will view you as unprofessional. On the other hand, if you're the only one still writing out by the way, the acronym users may deem you inefficient with your time.
You can use emoji to improve interpretation of written communication, especially internally. If you’re worried about how an emoji will come across, the safer bet is to avoid using it. Hold off using emoji when you’re working with a new client or someone whose professional culture may differ from yours. Once you’re confident you know your audience, you can make smarter judgments about which emoji are proper to use, and how frequently.
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