Many would agree on the importance of nonverbal cues and their importance in building trust in communication. With the rapid increase of virtual communication, the transmission of "emotions & nonverbal cues" is becoming complicated. As humans, we transmit emotions and non-verbal cues spontaneously in face-to-face communication, however, this is not the case in virtual communication. Whereas the absence of emotions and non-verbal cues can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. Therefore, business leaders should put more effort to ensure that virtual communication transmits emotions and nonverbal cues, and make sure these cues are transmitted accurately and are aligned with the company’s culture and its communication strategy to build trust in business communication.
Emojis are a great way of transmitting emotions and nonverbal cues in virtual communication, as they could replicate some of the emotions and the non-verbal cues. However, the problem with emojis is that they could be misinterpreted or misunderstood due to different variables which affect the perception of emojis, such as culture, context, personal interpretations, or the complexity of some emojis.
The misunderstanding of emojis
Some researchers recognise emojis as an evolving visual language that could be learned easily. Although we are using this language for some years now without it being taught to us, it is important to understand that casual communication varies from business communication. The effect of the misinterpretation of emojis in business communication could directly affect trust among co-workers which could harm the culture and the environment of the company.
One example is the simple smiley face (🙂) that could convey a wide range of positive, happy, and friendly sentiments. But it also could convey messages such as being patronising, passive-aggressive and sarcastic. Therefore, it is important to understand emojis individually and learn how to use them in business communication to build positive communication standards.
The research emphasises applying the emoji syntax in companies with a clan culture or similar. First, let us define what is a clan culture or what does a company with clan culture looks like. According to the Quinn Model (the competing values framework) which distinguish between different cultures in an organisation according to flexibility, control level, as well as internal focus and external focus in an organisation. A clan culture is a family-oriented culture and is internally oriented that focuses on human development, and the involvement of employees in decision-making. The research defined three major factors that make clan culture the place to introduce the emoji syntax:
Clan culture encourages face-to-face communication and interactions among teams. In remote communication, emojis can play a positive role in sending the right cues among teams.
Due to the established trust in the clan culture, among employees, themselves and employees with their superiors, less misinterpretation of emojis is expected.
Clan culture is more flexible and adaptative to change and uncertainties, which leads to more successful implementation and less resistance.
Application of the emoji syntax at Qudits
Qudits focuses on building trust among co-workers through its shared values and principles such as open and transparent communication and encourages face to face communication. The flexibility of work in terms of working hours and thinking out of the box help the development of employees and encourages creativity at Qudits. Furthermore, Qudits is a friendly and family-oriented environment. Qudits team members have used the emoji syntax e-learning tool. The team of Qudits could now better use emojis to send clear and positive emotional and non-verbal cues. These below are statements from the Qudits team about the e-learning of the emoji syntax.
"Intuitive and easy-to-use. easy to understand. Self-Explaining that is very important for introductions."
"The most valuable item here is for me the Communimoji, there are the rules and guidelines and the emotions at the workplace."
"From my point of view, this is a must-have especially for bigger companies which have employees from all over the world."
The results of the research
The main results of the conducted research show that the clearer the emojis, the more effective the communication would be. Likewise, the more clan culture the organisation has, the more open communication occurs in the organisation. Therefore, when emojis are used correctly, they can increase the engagement level of communication, reduce misunderstanding, and increase trust in organisations. As a result, it is important to re-learn to use emojis effectively in organisations to maintain positive and open communication among team members and reduce confusion and misinterpretation of messages.
Beyond the research
If companies want to implement an emoji syntax to make their communication more effective and thus improve the overall level of trust among team members, I suggest using the e-learning of the emoji syntax or a similar tool to establish a common understanding of what emoji mean in a business context and how they should be used effectively. Additionally, you can pre-define a specific set of emojis and their meaning within the company to give team members an easy-to-use guideline in which emojis can be used safely.
Lastly, emojis could be seen as elements of playfulness in communication, which can increase engagement and relax the tone of communication in the business environment. Beyond that, emojis can replicate certain emotions and non-verbal cues, offering the opportunity to better understand virtual communication, by reducing misinterpretation and assumptions, when they are used appropriately.
Author Isar Gammoh
Isar Gammoh is a people-oriented professional, who focuses on internal communication in organisations, process improvement, business analysis and strategy mapping. She brings substantial experience from the Executive, Marketing and Business Development, Commercial and Customer Care departments of NGO and telecommunication organisations, as well as from the retail industry. In 2015 she was certified in Business Strategy from the Balanced Scorecard Institute in London, UK.
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