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50 Percent of Emails and Texts are Misunderstood. Here’s How to Change That.

Here are four reasons to use more emojis at work.

We aren’t communicating as well as we think.

Ninety percent of the time people think their emails and texts are understood by recipients, but actually the messages are understood only 50 percent of the time, according to Nick Morgan, author of Can You Hear Me? How to Connect with People in a Virtual World.

For example, according to Morgan, recipients of a two-word email or text such as “nice job” or “great work” interpret the message as sarcastic 60 percent of the time.

Why do people misinterpret so frequently?

Humans have a tendency to assume the worst when the intent of communication isn’t clear. The negative bias that once alerted the brain of cavemen and cavewomen of potential dangers, like bears or alligators, is still very active in the minds of today’s modern workers. 

How do we overcome negative biases hijacking the intended meanings of our communications and ensure our messages aren’t misunderstood 50 percent of the time?

Use emojis.

4 Reasons to Use More Emojis at Work

1. Emoji acceptance is growing.

An early indicator of how culturally-ingrained emojis had become was in 2015 when the Oxford Dictionaries’ “Word of the Year” wasn’t a word but actually the emoji, 😂.

Sixty-one percent of emoji users use emojis at work. Twenty-six million custom emojis have been created in Slack since the “Add Custom Emoji” feature was introduced and “emoji use is basically universal” for the 13 million daily active users of Microsoft’s unified communication and collaboration platform, Teams.

2. Emojis help clarify emotional intent.

Research indicates that the same part of the brain that processes human faces also processes emojis. When an emoji conveys a human emotion, it can be transferred in a text. Therefore, emojis help communicators manage the emotional tone of digital messages. And emojis help recipients interpret the tone of digital messages.

For example, an “Ok” text from someone can be interpreted as acceptance, apathy, submissive, passive aggressive, or others. But an “Ok 😃” text is easily interpreted as positive acceptance. Adding an emoji removes the emotional ambiguity. Emojis can also create more efficiency by quickly conveying the intent and context that would otherwise be missing in a message.

Unsure what emoji to use for a certain emotion? Use Emojipedia to search emojis by emotions or other categories. 

3. Emojis enhance relationships.

The proper use of emojis help people form relationships and understand one another, according to a recent review of 50 studies on the use and impacts of emojis in communication.

More specifically, when emojis are used at work, the majority of emoji users feel they positively impact likability (78 percent) and credibility (63 percent), and make positive news more sincere (74 percent). And 81 percent of emoji users believe that people who use emojis are friendlier and more approachable. 

In addition, 94 percent of emoji users said the “ability to communicate across language barriers” was the greatest benefit of using emojis.

4. Emojis can close the generational gap.

While using emojis at work is becoming more commonplace, many of the mixed views of emojis can be explained largely by age. In general, the emerging generations (Millennials and Gen Z) place more value on using emojis while established generations (Gen X and Baby Boomers) tend to view emojis as unprofessional and counterproductive.

Professionals over 45 years-old, are more likely to say that emoji use at work is inappropriate versus appropriate. In addition…

  • Only 15 percent think emojis improve workplace communication
  • 29 percent say it makes colleagues look unprofessional; the number jumps to 36 percent when upper management uses them
  • 22 percent say it makes colleagues come across as either annoying, less genuine, or less competent

Conversely, young professionals overwhelming view emojis as appropriate for work. In fact, only 17 percent of young adults consider emoji use unprofessional.

Using emojis with Gen Z is a low risk, high return way to connect with and influence the next-generation workforce.

Here are a few reasons emojis might be the answer to closing the generational gap when communicating with Gen Z.

  1. Emojis are native to them.
  1. Emojis are “work-appropriate” to them.
  1. Emojis elicit truer emotion.
    • 58 percent of Gen Z feel emojis best express their emotions, compared to 48 percent of Millennials, 34 percent of Gen X and 37 percent of Boomers. And 83 percent of Gen Zare more comfortable expressing their emotions through emojis than a phone call, compared to 71 percent of Millennials, 61 percent of Gen X and 53 percent of Baby Boomers.
  1. Emojis improve perceptions.
    • When a colleague uses emojis in their communications with Gen Z, Gen Z finds them to be more fun (50 percent), more approachable (43 percent), and kinder (35 percent).
  1. Emojis can show support.
  1. Emojis allow expression.

Beyond emojis, sending GIFs to Gen Z can provide similar benefits as highlighted above. However, there can be greater risk of misinterpretation with GIFs as certain cultural references depicted in the GIF may not extend across generations. When using a GIF be sure the Gen Z recipient will get the intent behind the reference.

6 Tactics for Effectively Leading a Remote Workforce

1. Set Clear Expectations

Remote work is usually less structured than non-remote work, therefore clear expectations are critical. Clearly outline the expectations and then offer the necessary autonomy and trust for the team to execute.

  • Mission and vision
  • Yearly, monthly, and weekly goals
  • Hours of operation
  • Available resources and tools
  • Preferred communication methods, channels, and timing
  • Contact into and guidelines for support
  • Project and/or task ownership
  • Team availability (when, where, and how to be reached)

2. Connect Consistently

A lack of consistent connection, can leave remote workers feeling isolated and disconnected from the organization’s goals and mission.

  • Schedule routine virtual meetings. 
  • Designate a specific time (daily, weekly or monthly) where the entire team is online at the same time allowing for quick collaboration or help if needed.
  • Consider an “open status policy” (similar to an “open door policy”) where your online status (busy, away, available, etc.) is accurate so that remote workers know when they can connect with you. 

3. Choose the Right Channel

Today’s workers have gotten fairly good at blending digital and non-digital communications in non-remote working environments. However, in a fully remote working environment, all communications are digital and a new set of rules, know-how, and abilities are needed.

When communicating with remote workers, ensure your intended message aligns with the appropriate channel. Here is a quick overview on how to use today’s primary communication channels.

  • Phone: long, detailed, difficult, and/or emotional conversations
  • Email: objective and brief information.
  • Chat: informal messages, general announcements, news, quick team collaborating, and socializing.
  • Video (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc.): focused, long, feedback-rich, emotional or difficult conversations.

4. Communicate Transparently

When communicating with a remote team, transparency is paramount. A remote team is able to be more productive and autonomous when they are well informed.

To allow a remote team to function smoothly as a single unit, make information transparent from the sense of being easily accessible and readily available by using file-sharing services like Google Docs, Dropbox, etc.

5. Track Proactively

The ability to track and measure progress is empowering to any worker, and it’s no different for remote workers. However, the tools used to track progress for remote teams can be different. Consider time tracking, task management, and/or activity tracking tools to review what the team and individuals are accomplishing.

  • is a work operating system that powers teams to run processes, workflows, and projects in once digital workspace.
  • Trello helps to organize and prioritize projects and track progress.
  • IDoneThis helps remote workers aggregate their daily activity into a single report.

6. Monitor Well-Being

Setting boundaries between personal and work can be challenging for remote workers. The new independence of a remote worker leading to laziness and low performance can be very top of mind for managers.

“The greater danger is for [remote] employees to overwork themselves and burn out. It’s the manager’s responsibility to guard against this outcome,” says David Hansson, New York Times Bestselling author of Remote: Office Not Required, says,

Help employees take the appropriate time for themselves and maintain work-life balance by utilizing tools like OfficeVibeCultureAmp, and TINYpulse which can effectively monitor employee morale and engagement.

Ryan Jenkins is an internationally-recognized keynote speaker and author on the topics of leadership, generational differences, and the future of work. He is the co-founder of SyncLX, which creates lasting learning experiences for companies’ #1 asset, their people.

Would you like insights like these shared at your organization? Sync Learning Experiences helps companies big and small deliver training via LMS courses, live workshops (in-person and virtual), and custom L&D solutions. Click here to get in touch with our team.