Emojis, Memes, and GIFs: Are They Shortcuts to Friendly Work Chat?

Emojis, memes, and GIFs (however you choose to pronounce it) dominate our communication. We send them through texts, IM, and DM. We post them on our social media accounts and use them in comments on other people’s posts. But should you be using them to connect with your coworkers?


It kind of depends on where you work

Where you work does make a difference on how appropriate it is to use casual forms of communication. Consider the etiquette of your company culture before you decide to communicate entirely through memes. Also, as with all work-related decisions, think about how you will be perceived or understood (this should apply to any communications you send to people at work, whether or not those communications are peppered with GIFs).


It depends on where you’re using them

As many of us continue to work at least partially remotely, we lean even more heavily on Slack, Hangouts, Teams, or whatever instant messaging platform our companies use, to effectively communicate with our coworkers. The nature of those platforms, even if you’re using them for work-related activities, is more casual than email. Because of this, it is common to at least see emojis used as a kind of shorthand when moving quickly through a conversation. Thumbs up, smiley face, face with tears of joy…they pop up everywhere and seem to be acceptable.

Yes, it may seem obvious, but with email, consider the purpose of your message and what tone it should have before you add that Dawson Crying meme. Just like communicating on instant messaging platforms is more casual than email, using emojis make an email more casual. Send that funny GIF, but make sure that funny GIF isn’t in an email about a missed deadline with big consequences or a project timeline that absolutely must be adhered to. You may be trying to lighten the mood, but if there’s any chance a meme might cloud the message, go ahead, and leave it off.


It depends on what you’re saying

Remember the Golden Rule, and treat others the way you would want to be treated—but also keep in mind that something you might not care about at all could offend someone else. Keep your messaging appropriate and kind. Funnily enough, using emojis can help us connect with better success—it’s much more difficult to express emotions in email than it is in person or on video. So use that funny meme to encourage, applaud, or cheer someone up and avoid anything that could be misconstrued as meanspirited.


It depends on who you are speaking to

Another thing you’ll want to do before dropping your favorite conversational shortcut into a business communication is to think about the person you’re speaking to. Think about their role/rank in the company and the relationship you have with them. You should even consider their age.

Depending on the role this recipient has in your corporate life, it could be best to keep things professional. Use good judgment. There’s a difference between running a project with your work besties and emailing your boss—and even if you have an easy rapport with that person in senior leadership, keep their place in the hierarchy in mind when you craft communications with them.

Thinking of the age of the person you are speaking to is not in any way negative—it’s simply smart to consider what might resonate with certain people. There can be up to five different generations working together in any given business setting. That’s a wide range of life experience and interests. Something the younger employees may find hilarious (or obvious) could be less understandable to someone in the older range (and vice versa).

At the end of the day, keep in mind there have been studies that people who utilize pictures over words  are perceived as being less powerful. If you’re hoping to present a strong message, it might be best to communicate minus the emojis, GIFs, and memes.


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