Are emojis killing your chance to be taken seriously?


Source: Shutterstock.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but is that picture killing your chance to be taken seriously in the workplace? 

According to a new study from Tel Aviv University’s Coller School of Management, it is. And the culprit is the emoji. 😲!

Death by emoji 💀

As more and more businesses move online and increase their flexible working options, instant messaging platforms for professional purposes have also been on the rise.

Gone are the days of the sole mode of communication being a phone call or a long email, and with access to our colleagues at the touch of a button, communication has also — arguably — become less formal, as the lines blur between social media messaging and professional correspondence.

Interfaces such as Slack allow you to respond to messages via an emoji, and have even embedded shortcuts that turn certain character combinations into their emoji-counterpart. The tech we’re using in business is positioning us to use these images to convey our messages to those around us, so what’s the problem?

Well, according to the study, using pictures and emojis in favour of words is not doing you any favours if you’re wishing to “signal power to your colleagues, your boss, or your subordinates”.

Sad reacts only 😥.

The game is afoot

In an experiment conducted for the study, participants were asked to choose one of two co-participants to represent them in a competitive game — one which was better suited to people with “high social power”.

One co-participant represented themselves with a pictorial profile, while the other chose the verbal route to represent themselves on their Zoom profile.

The experiment saw 62% of participants choose the co-participant with a verbal profile, allowing researchers to conclude that “employees who signal power by using words are more likely to be selected to powerful positions, compared to those who signal weakness by using pictures”.

But what does using a 🤠 in my Slack name really say to my colleagues? That I wouldn’t be good at a… game?

A 🚩 to work colleagues?

Ultimately, the researchers argue that becoming accustomed to communicating with pictures and emojis on social networks for fun has led to a lack of seriousness in “some situations” like a work or business environment. Or when being chosen to lead a competitive game.

The researchers say emoji-use can raise a “red flag” to those around you, because it signals low power — as though a CEO with 40 years of business experience behind them would immediately be disregarded in their position of power by sending a 🙂 to their subordinates.

But there’s also research that argues the opposite, stating that the increasingly digital means of communication means employees can often misread the “tone and intent” of correspondence they receive.

“Plain and simple, emojis help employees communicate more effectively with each other,” CEO of unified communications platform company 8×8 Vik Verma told Forbes in 2019.

My humble take? Someone who refuses to use emojis is a walking 🚩 themselves. It signals a behind-the-times approach to communication, a stringent mindset as to what professionalism should look like, and a blatant fear of change.

So whether you want to take this article and its emojis seriously or not, and whether you believe emojis should be relished or rejected in corporate correspondence, one thing is for sure: the digitalisation of workplace communication is here to stay.

And if my 85-year-old grandmother can learn how to use emojis, so can you.



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.