Got an important message to send at work? It might be best to skip the emoji

Got an important message to send at work? It might be best to skip the emoji

Imagine this scenario – you just signed a big client at work, and though you can’t be in the same room to celebrate it, a text thread or a Slack channel gets filled with celebratory messages. So, of course, you send a fist bump emoji. But then, Bryan from HR sends you a private message wondering why you want to punch someone. So now you have to explain that no one was getting punched, and you just wanted to celebrate without wasting any time – which you ended up doing anyway by having to explain.

This kind of confusion isn’t unheard of, especially in workplaces that are increasingly moving online but also as teams become more diverse regarding ethnicity and age. There’s often a gap between what people mean by certain emoji and how they are received.

A survey conducted by Slack and Duolingo of 9,400 hybrid workers across North America, Asia and Europe found that most workers feel like their language through text is incomplete on its own because it’s hard to get the entire sentiment across without slipping in a few emoji. But 58% of respondents also said they didn’t realize that certain emoji have different meanings than what they thought.

Source: Bloomberg

It doesn’t stop there, though. Some are subtle, such as the slightly smiling face emoji, which can signal either happiness or sarcastic exasperation. The survey showed that these have cultural cues – just one in 20 people in Japan would interpret the emoji as exasperation, while that number is one in five in the US and Singapore. And when it comes to the peach or the eggplant emoji, let’s just say avoiding those entirely is probably the best practice.