These are the emojis that WFH colleagues think are most passive-aggressive

a neon wall art piece of a sad emoji with downturned eyebrows and a downturned mouth
Using certain emojis might result in hurt feelings among colleagues. (Getty Image)

When was the last time you used an emoji while sending an instant message to your co-worker? With remote working being the norm for many British employees, it’s likely you used one about 10 minutes ago - but it might not mean what you think it means.

Working from home (WFH) and hybrid working has become a normal part of many UK employees who would traditionally have been commuting to and from an office five days a week. Instead, since the Covid pandemic, being able to work remotely and having a mix of days where you work from home and in the office is now common practice.

As a result, face-to-face communications are less frequent, replaced instead by instant messaging and emails. Because of this, the use of emojis in workplace communications has become more frequent as they are an easy, visual way to check things off or show how we feel.

But, according to a new survey, nearly half (44%) of remote workers think using emojis while communicating to their colleagues is unprofessional - even though 63% say they "sometimes" use emojis and 8% say they "alway" use them.

Portrait of serious young woman with eyeglasses frowning while using laptop at her desk.
Nearly half of remote workers think the use of emojis in work communications is unprofessional. (Getty Images)

Among those who do use emojis, some might be interpreted as being passive-aggressive, while others might be confusing or altogether inappropriate.

Being passive-aggressive refers to when you might be upset at someone you work with, but don’t tell them directly and instead use other non-verbal ways to show you are unhappy.

A survey of 1,028 WFH employees, conducted by WordList Finder, found that the rolling eyes emoji topped the list of the most passive-aggressive emojis, followed by the unamused face emoji and the person shrugging emoji.

These are the top five most passive-aggressive emojis used in work communications, according to WFH employees:

  • 🙄 Face with rolling eyes

  • 😒 Unamused face

  • 🤷‍♂️ Person shrugging

  • 🙃 Upside-down face

  • 🤦‍♂️ Person facepalming

The survey also revealed the top five most confusing emojis, which are:

  • 🙃 Upside-down face

  • 🤷‍♂️ Person shrugging

  • 🤔 Thinking face

  • 😛 Face with tongue

  • 😅 Grinning face with sweat

There are also emojis associated with both positive and negative sentiments. The smiling face with smiling eyes (😊) emoji is the most positive one, followed by the thumbs up (👍) and the smiling face with sunglasses (😎), whilst the sobbing face emoji (😭) is the most negative, followed by the prohibited sign (🚫) and the unamused face (😒).

Meanwhile, there are some emojis that you should steer clear of using as they are considered completely inappropriate when chatting with your colleagues who work from home. These are:

  • 🍺 Beer Mug

  • 🍆 Eggplant

  • 💋 Kiss

  • Middle finger

  • 🍑 Peach

So, next time you use an emoji while chatting to a colleague over instant messaging, it might be a good idea to check what they think of it first. An emoji communication mishap would be (😢).

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