Using emojis in email — is it a kiss of death?

Emojis are those cute, often times funny, animated characters that you can send via text message. They’re frequently used in conversations to express emotion or spice up your Instagram caption with brightly-colored designs.

While the emoji is quite popular amongst users for social media posts or private messages, many would agree that using emojis in a professional situation – say, a work email – is not the time nor place to use these friendly emoticons.

Although you may be trying to bring a smile to a colleague’s face, or be more ‘relatable’ by throwing in an emoji, research says that it may have the opposite effect on your co-workers.

A study says that those who read a message that has a smiling emoji from a co-worker viewed them as less competent – ouch! Regardless of these findings, there are still some ways you can sneak an emoji into a work email – but you have to do it correctly. Here are some examples of why we are defending the use of emojis in emails (only in certain situations.)

When welcoming a new team member

Emojis make people smile. Adding a relatable or cute face to the end of an email can make someone feel welcome and build a form of trust. CNBC says that sending an emoji in a welcome email can make the new hire feel like you are their “friend.”

While you won’t send emojis when conducting formal business matters, a quick email to say hello can help foster trust and inclusion in the work environment. 

To add some levity to a situation

We all know fights at work can create awkwardness and tension in the office. Disagreements can also delay production and waste time on arguing rather than accomplishing the task at hand.

It can also help relieve stress amongst colleagues if, say, you’re on a tight deadline. Emojis express how we are feeling, often times more effectively than words do. These little faces can help bring some cheer back into a stressful situation.

Know your audience

We all have those co-workers whom we are very close with, and the ones we would never speak to on a friend-like basis.

For those colleagues whom we have a strong rapport with, you may message, email or text on a daily basis more casually than in a work setting. In these instances, you may use the emoji more frequently to banter about work or meeting up for lunch.

FlexJobs says it’s important to be able to read the room and be aware of who your audience is. If you get positive, friendly vibes from your colleague who you have become friends with outside of the workplace, then it’s most likely fine to send emojis.

However, sending a laughing emoji to your boss probably won’t look too professional – but again, everyone’s relationship is different, and it’s up to you to make the best judgement.

What is the general consensus on emojis in the workplace?

With so many ‘rules’ to using the emoji in a work email properly, it’s important to ask: what is the general, overall feeling towards emoji use at work? According to an Adobe report, 61% of those surveyed said they use emojis at work. As well, 78% said it increases likability and an overall positive work environment. 

In summary, yes – it is possible to effectively use an emoji in a workplace email. However, there is a fine line between reading as friendly or extremely unprofessional.

Always have audience awareness, not using inappropriate emojis (I’m looking at you, peach emoji) and always judging the situation by who you are speaking to.

A general rule of thumb – if it feels risky, don’t send it. But if you’re making a friendly gesture to a new colleague, or asking your BFF coworker when lunch is, then by all means, emoji away.