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The Practical Employer

No, You do not Need a Workplace Emoji Policy

Most employers already have an emoji policy. It’s called your harassment policy.

I read a blog yesterday that asked the following question? “Do you need a workplace emoji policy?

They say yes, I say an unequivocal no.

They argue that inappropriate emoji use might lead to misunderstandings and harassment liability.

You may want to look into having a custom set of emojis defined for use throughout the company (and leave out the easy to misinterpret emojis, like the winky face, tongue out, kissy face, or racially diverse options). It’s not that some emojis are inappropriate on their own, but the context makes a big difference. Also, if an employee is not fluent in emoji, they might misunderstand what they are saying, or being told/asked, if an emoji is used. Using the wrong emoji could be seen as evidence of a hostile work environment, discrimination, or sexual harassment. As such, if you are going to allow the use of emojis, you may want to have training available to employees on what the emojis mean.

They are also corporate killjoys. (And we wonder why people can’t stand lawyers.)

This might be silliest thing I’ve read in a long time. Most employers already have an emoji policy. It’s called your harassment policy. You do not need a separate policy to forbid your employees from using what is becoming an acceptable form of communication. Heck, even courts are starting to use emoji in opinions.

We can have a healthy debate over the professionalism of emoji use in business communications (like this one). Indeed, according to one recent survey, “nearly half (41%) of workers use emojis in professional communications. And among the senior managers polled, 61% said it’s fine, at least in some situations.” My sense is that your view of this issue will depend on a combination of your age, your comfort with technology, and the age of your kids.

As for me, I use emojis all the time, even at work. Email is notoriously tone deaf. It’s easier for me to drop a 😊 into an email to convey intent than to tone down my sarcasm.

In other words, 😁. Emojis are 👌, and its perfectly fine to ❤ them at work. ✌

Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Hyman’s blog at Workforce.com/PracticalEmployer.