Careful with those emoji at work

The survey found that 44% of office workers use emoji to communicate at least once a day, with 32% saying they use them multiple times a day. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/scyther5)

Emoji are fun when communicating with friends. But D.C.-based business-to-business research firm Clutch recommends using them sparingly in work-related texts and emails.

One reason is that not everybody uses them, or is hip enough to know what they mean, and a Clutch survey found examples of times when emoji were misinterpreted by the receiver.

“One respondent described how after a very good month, to show his excitement he wrote to colleagues that the month was ‘fire’ with the fire emoji in the subject line. One of his coworkers took it to mean the numbers were so bad, he wanted to burn the report,” Hannah Hicklen, at Clutch, told WTOP.

“One person sent what she thought was a ‘smiling’ emoji to a coworker, but it was a ‘hugging’ emoji, and his wife found out and accused her of flirting,” she said.

Clutch found that 44% of office workers it surveyed use emoji to communicate at least once a day, with 32% saying they use them multiple times a day.

Some people think using emoji at work can be helpful.

Almost one-third — 31% — said they think emoji help convey message tone and show feelings virtually.

But they can also come off as disrespectful. Like that coworker who answers texts or emails with just a “thumbs-up.”

“That person you refer to who got just a ‘thumbs-up’ emoji thought that, without an accompanying message, the sender was too annoyed to reply,” Hicklen said.

Those who use emoji at work are most likely to send them to their non-manager coworkers. Only 5% said they feel comfortable sending emoji to the CEO of their company.

Those surveyed over 45 years old were more likely to say they think colleagues who use emoji are annoying, less genuine or less competent, while those under 30 use them to be funny and express their feelings with coworkers.

Clutch recommends emoji use be confined to internal office communications, and avoided in communications with clients or customers. It also recommends sticking to basic emoji, which are less open to misinterpretation.

There are now 3,136 official emoji, with 117 new ones added this year. There is actually a nonprofit organization — the Unicode Consortium — that approves official emoji.

Clutch surveyed 500 professionals across the U.S. about their emoji habits at work from Oct. 29 through Nov. 2. It’s full survey results, and tips for emoji use, are posted online.

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