Cancel culture comes to work, looking for passive-aggressive emojis


It’s not just your haircut or your clothes. Sending emojis, which means “picture characters” in Japanese, can make you look old. In the workplace, emojis can make you seem disconnected, “rude” and even passive-aggressive, according to a new report from Prospectus Global. From their origins in Japan in the late 90s and their global breakthrough in 2011, today there are 838 commonly used emojis. In a survey of 2,000 16- to 29-year-olds, who send around 80 emojis a week, cancel culture is coming for emojis and the people who send them. The thumbs-up emoji – rated number one for being uncool – is at the top of the list. Here are the top 10 emojis that make you age, according to Yahoo News:

  1. Thumbs up 👍
  2. Red Heart ❤️️️
  3. Okay hand 👌
  4. Check mark ✔️
  5. poop 💩
  6. Face crying loudly 😭
  7. Monkey eye patch 🙈
  8. Applause in the hands 👏
  9. Kiss mark 💋
  10. Grimacing face 😬

While 22% of respondents say they use multiple emojis in a text message “to make it clearer,” a new survey from Tel Aviv University says emojis actually make you look less powerful. “The use of pictures signals a greater desire for social closeness,” the research says, using a $12 double word to point to closeness as a bad thing. Would a simple emoji have been simpler? “People strategically use images when aiming to signal less potency,” the survey continues. In certain situations, particularly in a work or business environment, [sending emojis] can be costly, as it signals low power.

Picture This: Emoji Sensitivities Emerge for Gen Z

Rude and hostile. That’s what Gen Z calls this thumbs up icon on Reddit. A 24-year-old poster, HuaAnNi, wrote, “It’s super rude if someone just sends you a thumbs up. It took me a little while to adjust and get out of my head that it just means they [Gen X texters, or perhaps Boomers or even Millennials] are mad at me. AvalancheReturns replies, “It’s just a way of saying ‘I read your post and have nothing to add and I hope and pray to God that all the bazillions of people in this group chat have nothing to add. say about that too. “”

They are not wrong. The thumbs-up emoji is the new “K”. Whether you consider them dismissive or effective, emojis aren’t the only game in town when it comes to online communication. Unsurprisingly, Gen Z survey respondents have a simple answer to creating greater impact at work:

Use your words.

Tone in text: Why emoticons don’t always work at work

“I only use [the thumbs up emoji] sarcastically,” Barry Kennedy, 24, says in this article. Yet, there is no way to indicate the tone in a text message. This is why you either love or hate texting. When tone doesn’t exist, it’s easy to assign one – even if sarcasm or rudeness isn’t the right one. Ultimately, the medium is the message – so why risk miscommunication at work? When you think you’re conveying efficiency, but your team sees it as sarcasm, your communication crumbles.

It’s easy to turn this question into a generational debate, but that’s an oversimplification. The real problem here – and it has no age – is effective communication. Talk it over with your team and find out if they think a thumbs-up emoji is dismissive, rude, sarcastic, or something else. And use your words to clarify your meaning, so that there is no misunderstanding.

Don’t back down when you can speak or share words that clarify what you want to say. After all, you can talk to text in your phone. (No word on the surveys on whether talking to text makes you look old or not. But it does.)

Consequences of emoticons: how to fix your communication at work

Match.com found that the more emojis a researcher uses in their texts, the more dates they have — and the more sex they have. (The ultimate social closeness, perhaps). This survey of over 5,600 singles points to an unexpected result of using emojis — but probably not the correlation you’re looking for at work.

“We are people and we have words to use,” says Kim Law, a 25-year-old social worker from Nassau County on Long Island. “If I took the time to write a thoughtful message, then you shouldn’t reply with the bare minimum. Fix it and write something real back. Communications specialists are still evaluating his use of this command in the last sentence – the one without the word “please” – but you get the drift. Suppose she’s not bossy, she’s just trying to be direct and the message is easier to digest.

Professor Vyvyan Evans, author of The emoji codesays: “A common misconception is that an emoji is the equivalent of a teenage growl, a step back into the dark ages of illiteracy, making us poorer communicators in the process – maybe even dumber too.”

Texting and emoticons at work: a slippery slope

We have known since the 1960s that the majority of communication is non-verbal. Emojis are like any tool: it’s how you use them that counts. Are you achieving your goal and presenting yourself as the leader you want to be, with this OK hand emoji? Or do you growl at your team in a group text? The survey says: reconsider.

Remember the first rule of good communication: consider your audience. If texting is a trigger, don’t pull it. Instead, turn to the number one business tool today: conversation. Be sure to see and set expectations so that if you use that thumbs up emoji you don’t get a thumbs down response.


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