This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center


The COVID-19 pandemic has made work-from-home a new norm, which will likely continue after the pandemic. Thanks to remote work, it is becoming increasingly common for workplace communication to occur via computer-mediated channels such as email. This study explored how managers’ use of emojis in email communication affect subordinates’ perception of the manager, including perceived manager likability and effectiveness.

Prior research has shown that emojis strengthen a message’s positivity and generate feelings of warmth. Thus, the researchers predicted that emails with an emoji would elicit higher perceived manager likability and effectiveness than emails without an emoji. In addition, this study examined whether subordinates’ evaluation differs for male versus female managers.  Based on gender-role stereotypes and expectations, the authors predicted that female managers would be evaluated as less likable by subordinates than male managers when not using an emoji, and less effective than male managers when using an emoji. The study also considered how the subordinate’s gender might impact their perception of a leader using emojis.


The authors conducted two experiments to test their hypotheses. To qualify for both studies, participants needed to receive work-related emails at least once per day. Study 1 recruited 505 U.S. participants aged 22 to 71 years old via Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), including 253 females and 252 males. Study 2 included only female employees recruited via MTurk. The 71 participants aged from 23 to 71 years old.

Key Findings

-Male participants perceived leaders who used emojis as more likable and more effective, regardless of the leader’s gender.

-Female participants perceived managers who used emojis as less effective, regardless of their gender. Their perception of the manager’s emoji use is not related to manager likability.

-Female participants also perceived the use of emojis by managers as more inappropriate, especially when the female participants expressed that their workplace communication climate was relatively formal.

Implications for practice

Leaders should understand 1) the level of formality of the communication climate within their workplace, 2) the communication preferences of their subordinates before using emojis in work emails, and 3) that male participants are more likely to perceive managers who use emojis as effective.


Riordan, M. A., & Glikson, E. (2020). On the hazards of the technology age: How using emojis affects perceptions of leaders. International Journal of Business Communication. Advanced Online Publication.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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