Getting emotional at work is usually seen as a weakness and emojis can be perceived as childish. Do you remember Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) from “The Devil Wears Prada” who always remained cold and intimidating towards employees? Or let’s think about “The Godfather” where Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) recommended to “never say what you think” in public. When I reflect on workplaces with dress codes and the necessity to always “remain professional” among co-workers, it almost seems hard to understand how people must have learnt to fit in rather than be authentic.
Today, when distributed work is on the rise, it seems hard to detach ourselves from our personal lives with the laptop being the only “connector” between work and the private sphere. We aren’t putting on suits anymore yet the necessity to remain professional remains. However, if we look at global workplace trends one thing becomes clear. Humanizing the working experience has never been so important. People-centric working cultures are all about authenticity, values as well as a shared mission and vision. This means that being true to ourselves becomes the heart and soul of leading distributed teams.
Emojis and authenticity in a remote workplace
Numerous companies stress the importance of having a great culture these days. At the same time, businesses are becoming strongly focused on the customer experience aspect. The mission, vision and values become the epicentre of most business operations. So how can we define the “glue” among all this? What’s the magic sauce here? Well… the answer is rather simple. It’s all about our emotional connection. But how can we keep expressing it if we don’t see each other on a daily basis?
How can we make sure that we don’t get misunderstood? What can help us deliver the right message to the recipient?
Have you ever heard that “a picture speaks more than a thousand words?”. It ‘s true as our brain processes images much faster than words. What’s more, pictures trigger our brain to produce an emotional response. So now if we physically meet, it’s easy for us to observe body language, facial expressions or the tone of someone’s voice. However, this doesn’t always happen in a distributed setup up which mostly relies on non-verbal, asynchronous communication. This can become quite deceiving as we tend to misunderstand 50% of e-mails and texts. Statistically speaking, can you imagine that every second message that we send is misinterpreted? That’s dramatic!
This is exactly the moment when emojis jump in… 😉 Yes, you hear me! I mean the the “childish” pictograms that you’ve seen around since at least 2010. It’s about time they deserve proper attention as they can help us eliminate unconscious bias, become more transparent and intentional.
Non-verbal communication and emojis
As human beings we have a tendency to always assume the worst. So now let’s imagine a random work-related situation. We often receive an “OK” message from our colleagues. Since there’s no “emotional touch” added to it, our interpretation of such a response may vary, based on different context.
- “OK” – can mean that someone is acknowledging our previous message. Makes sense, right? But let’s imagine that we’ve spent an entire week on working super hard to deliver an important project. Since we’ve just received such a short and numb response, we may feel unappreciated.
- “OK” – may mean that someone is apathetic. They’re just willing to get it over with. In this scenario we may think that this person just doesn’t care… Maybe their engagement has dropped? Are they unhappy with their work? Is something wrong?
- “OK” – is a response that we’ve just received from our employee who seemed under the weather today. Are they trying to be passive-aggressive? Are they putting the rest of the team under pressure this way?
- “OK” – can also mean that someone is being submissive. Why aren’t they expressing what they really think? Are they afraid to speak up? What do they really think about the idea?
…We must stop leading a life full of assumptions! If we try and connect our written message with an emoji, there’s be a high probability that it will truly reach its’ recipient. Imagine the above mentioned “OK” message with the following emojis: 🤩, 😐 or 🥳. Our intentions are getting clear immediately. That’s very important in a distributed workplace as we’re literally leaving someone alone with almost any message that they receive. We don’t want our employees to get stressed out about a “We need to talk” message which is all about a promotion but they’ll be overthinking it for hours and expecting termination instead. Let’s make written communication easier for everyone by starting with Emojipedia.