This emoji is laughing so much that it is crying tears of joy. This emoji is laughing so much that it is crying tears of joy. This emoji is laughing so much that it is crying tears of joy. (Photo: Photototo / Shutterstock)

Emojis at work: Which side are you on?

A debate rages on if the cartoonish characters are helpful or hurtful among colleagues.

The group that orchestrates new emojis that are added into the lexicon each year has just released more than 150 new icons for us to enjoy in 2018. For the first time, they included emojis with red hair, white hair and curly hair. They will join the 2,666 already in use.

So get going? Start typing away. 😎🙀😜

Indeed, a new study by a pair of German scientists shows that using emojis at work can actually be a good thing. They argue that the cartoonish characters are an easy way to add texture and extra layers of meaning to workplace communication. "Senders can use happy and ironic emoticons to soften their email messages," the researchers wrote.

Other scientists say not so fast! 😞 😬 😞

This new study seems to contradict research that was published last year from the University of Haifa and Ben-Gurion University, both in Israel, and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. In that study, the scientists found that using a smile emoji in conversation actually decreases perception of the colleague's competence and inserts a level of distance into the relationship. In other words, using emojis in emails at work makes you seem incompetent.

"I believe there is a greater gap in what the sender is hoping to convey and what the receiver interprets," Arik Cheshin, a social science professor in Israel and co-author of the study, told From The Grapevine. "This intention-interpretation gap can be damaging. I don't think that emoticons and emojis replace actual emotion. They are just different. The emotions are there and will always be when there are humans involved."

Dr. Nick Bowman, a professor of communication studies at West Virginia University, said that it's important to keep in mind that not every email is meant to be a professionally crafted memo. "Different emails carry with them very different purposes," he explained. "I also think there's a flaw in the assumption that 'a good email shouldn't need emotions' – that's not how human communication works. Emotions can and do add context to our interactions, so devaluing emojis as 'unprofessional' is similar to suggesting that we shouldn't have faces in face-to-face interaction: it's impossible."

As to losing your job with an emoji? Bowman, an expert in computer-mediated communication, told us: "I sincerely doubt that 'You're fired 😊' is a message that would be well received, just as you probably wouldn't smile when firing somebody face-to-face either."

Dr. Elliot Berlin, a small business owner in Los Angeles, feels that texting and digital messaging with his employees can have its limitations. "We depend on each other a lot. We aim for a business casual relationship – friendly, warm, professional, but light-hearted. Sometimes when you're communicating by text or email, the tone of the message can get lost and the impact can be very different than what was intended," he told us.

But he does think that there are benefits to adding emojis to the message. "With an emoji you can put a little bit of the personality and emotion behind the message and make its intention more clear. In addition to giving a little flavor to the message, it also cuts down on time. An emoji is worth 100 words."


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