‘Thumbs Up’ Emoji is Passive-Aggressive in the Workplace, Claim Gen-Z

Do you often use emojis to respond to co-workers via Slack, emails, and other workplace conversations?

Think twice the next time you do, as a lively internet debate has ensued over which emojis are appropriate in a workplace setting — and which give off negative or snarky vibes.

The heated conversation about emoji etiquette first kicked off on Reddit, with one Gen-Z user claiming that sending a thumbs-up can be seen as passive-aggressive, rude, and at times, confrontational.

One user commented, “No one my age in the office does it, but the Gen X people always do it. Took me a bit of time to adjust and get it out of my head that it means they’re mad at me.”

Should you use emojis in workplace digital communication?

According to business consultant Sue Ellson, using words instead of emojis is a more professional:

“Predictive systems can type a word like ‘Thanks’ in two clicks. ‘It feels like people are ‘too lazy’ to type a written response and it doesn’t provide clarity as to next steps. Do you mean ‘yes I will do something’, ‘okay I agree’ or is it just confirmation that you received the message.

Another survey found an even split on whether or not emojis in the workplace were acceptable, while most would agree that it comes down to usage and who you’re sending them to.

Ask yourself: Is this emoji usage appropriate given the audience and can it be easily understood within the context of the conversation or email?

Top 10 Emojis that make you look old when used in the workplace:

According to a poll of 2,000 respondents between the age of 16-29, these are the Top 10 emojis that make you look old:

  1. Thumbs up 👍
  2. Red heart ❤️
  3. OK hand 👌
  4. Checkmark
  5. Poo 💩
  6. Loudly crying face 😭
  7. Monkey eye cover 🙈
  8. Clapping hands 👏
  9. Kiss mark 💋
  10. Grimacing face 😬

Passive-aggressive phrases used in the workplace, decoded:

According to the MailOnline, using these phrases in your communication with co-workers can often have a hidden, passive-aggressive meaning:

“Per my last email

What they really mean: The information is in previous correspondence. Why did you not bother to read it before asking?

“Hope this helps

What they really mean: Never ask me for anything again.

“Thank you for your feedback, I’ll be sure to keep it in mind

What they really mean: Your criticism is incorrect and irrelevant and I’ll never consider it.

“Just to clarify”

What they really mean: Do you realize how wrong what you just said sounds?

“Just circling back

What they really mean: I’m still waiting for you to answer my original question.

“I’ll let you two take it from here

What they really mean: I’m not part of this conversation and I don’t want to be.

“I’ve attached another copy for your convenience

What they really mean: Don’t pretend like you didn’t see the first one.

“At your earliest convenience

What they really mean: This should be a priority. Hurry up already!

“Let me know if any questions!”

What they really mean: I really hope you don’t have any questions.

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