Goodchat Emoji

The workplace minefield and how to dodge an emoji explosion

 New research reveals confusion between the generations, but that isn’t stopping bosses from sending a smiley face

 

  • Almost one in three (29 percent) Kiwis say using emojis at work changes their perception of their colleagues
  • Of those a majority (59%) say it is for the better
  • One in two people have used emojis in the wrong context, getting 17% of them into trouble
  • 41 percent of workers have received emojis from their boss or manager.

17 July 2019 - As New Zealanders celebrate World Emoji Day, it has been revealed how the playful symbols are helping create friendlier workplaces, but not everyone is ready for a thumbs up from their colleagues.

 

New research released today by 2degrees looks at our use of emojis and how it affects the way we view other people. The survey of more than 2,000 New Zealanders found that for the most part our intentions are good but beware the generation gap at work that could create some awkward moments. 

While one in two of us use emojis to give a sense of tone and avoid being misunderstood, half of those surveyed have used emojis in the wrong context, with 17 percent getting into trouble for it.

Miriam Meyerhoff, Linguistics Professor at Victoria University Wellington, says: “People can interpret emojis in different ways and different groups often associate different meanings with different symbols, and this doesn’t always cross the generations.

“This can be a minefield in the workplace. For example, a wink face might be used in a flirtatious way by people who wouldn’t dream of sending one at work, while for others it signifies a friendly and light-hearted comment at the end of a work email. The last thing we want is for people to feel uncomfortable or even harassed by a misunderstood emoji that was sent by a workmate in all innocence but received the wrong way.”

The research also found the use of emojis can change the way people view their colleagues and lead to better connections at work.

Nearly one in three (29 percent) say their perceptions of their workmates change if they use emojis. And serial users can relax: the majority (59 percent) warm to you when you use emojis and think you are friendlier than expected.

Miriam Meyerhoff adds: “Language and communication norms are constantly changing and it’s clear that emojis have a part to play in this. It’s interesting to see that young women are leading the way as the biggest users of emojis, which fits in with other studies that show they usually drive language change.”

When it comes to interacting with your peers, you’re on fairly safe ground if you’re under 24, with 94% using them in everyday digital conversations.

For most people, of all ages, it depends how well they know their colleague before they hit send, but 40% will email or text one of the colourful images if they think a workmate could use a smile.

 

However, it pays to think twice before sending a thumbs up to an older colleague as 42% of those aged 55+ think it is unprofessional to use emojis at work. The older crowd also think the boss is off-limits, with one in two people over the age of 45 saying it is inappropriate to send one to the person in charge.

But that’s not putting off the people at the top: 41% of workers have received emojis from their boss or manager. This can pay dividends when it comes to building a strong culture, with one in four people feeling less intimidated by those in senior roles who send them a smiley face.

Scott Taylor, Chief Consumer Officer 2degrees, believes there’s plenty of food for thought in the survey findings, including for some bosses who may be missing a trick on relating better to their staff.

“Relationships are built on good communication and the growth of technology is giving us new ways of talking, including through emojis. It’s not surprising that younger people, who have been brought up with a mobile phone in their hand, are comfortable using emojis, but the rest of us aren’t far behind with 70% of Kiwis using them.

“The key, as with all good conversation, is to know what is appropriate when it comes to the emojis you choose and who you send them to. We’re constantly seeing new symbols being introduced and with that comes more opportunity for people to express their feelings in different ways.”

 The research builds on 2degrees’ previous work, looking at how New Zealanders are communicating with one another and how technology is affecting relationships across the nation. 

 Ends

 Contact: Adam Szentes, on behalf of 2degrees

+64 21 265 1067

Adams@porternovelli.kiwi

 

Data extracts

Extract One

Do you use emojis in everyday digital conversations?

Response

%

Yes

70%

No

30%

NET

100%

 

In relation to the above, which of the following age groups do you fit into?

Response

16-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

      55-64

65+

Yes

94%

86%

84%

69%

51%

35%

No

6%

14%

16%

31%

49%

65%

NET

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%


Extract Two

Have you ever received emojis from work colleagues/clients/partners?

Row %

Yes

No

Workmate

71%

29%

Boss/manager

41%

59%

Customers

35%

65%

Clients

32%

68%

Suppliers

26%

74%

 

Extract Three

Do your perceptions of someone change based on whether they use emojis in the workplace?

Response

%

Yes

29%

No

71%

NET

100%

 

In relation to the above, which of the following age groups do you fit into?

Response

16-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

      55-64

65+

Yes

41%

32%

26%

20%

23%

18%

No

59%

68%

74%

80%

77%

82%

NET

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

 

If yes, why is that?

Response

%

I warm to them and think they’re friendlier than expected

59%

I don’t think its professional

26%

I’m not so intimidated by the fact they’re in a senior role

26%

I don’t take them as seriously

22%

I question their competence

12%

Other (Please specify)

2%

NET

100%

 

Extract Four

How do you choose who you send emojis to in the workplace? (select all that apply)  

Response

%

If I feel I know them well enough to do so

55%

When I think they could use a smile

40%

To suggest tone so that I’m not misunderstood

30%

I wait for them to send one to me first

19%

If we’ve talked about emojis before

10%

To ease bad news

9%

Other (Please specify)

11%

NET

100%

 

For those you are least likely to use an emoji with, why is that? (16-24 years old)

Row %

Not appropriate

Not professional

Doesn’t fit with the nature of our relationship

They don’t like emojis

They don’t add anything to the conversation

I don’t like emojis

Other

Not sure

NET

Friends

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

Family

0%

2%

1%

1%

0%

0%

1%

0%

3%

Partner

0%

1%

3%

0%

3%

1%

0%

0%

6%

Workmates

7%

8%

6%

0%

1%

0%

0%

1%

15%

Boss

38%

45%

32%

1%

7%

0%

0%

0%

63%

Acquaintances

6%

5%

8%

2%

3%

1%

0%

1%

21%

Business

31%

32%

22%

0%

5%

0%

0%

1%

52%

Teacher

38%

26%

29%

2%

8%

0%

0%

0%

59%

Other

0%

2%

0%

0%

0%

2%

0%

2%

6%

NET

55%

64%

54%

5%

13%

3%

1%

4%

100%

 

Extract Five

Have you ever accidentally used an emoji before in the wrong context?

Response

%

Yes

50%

No

50%

NET

100%

 

Did that get you into trouble?

Response

%

Yes

17%

No

83%

NET

100%