April 8, 2024

There’s an emoji for that

We walked into your group chat, and we’re here to help.

2 min read

A breakdown of what different emojis signify, based on your colleague’s generation. 

1. The heart ❤️

The situation: You are a CEO who has asked if someone from your team can make it for a one-on-one coffee meeting at 7 am. 

You get two heart emojis in response, but here’s what they mean:

  • Your millennial team member: Yes! Would love to catch up. ❤️
  • Your Gen-Z team member: No ❤️

2. The thumbs up 👍

The situation: A team member sends a long text message about staying in the office all night to finish a project when their colleagues know it could have been completed in a few hours.

They get a ton of thumbs-up emoji reacts, but here’s the key difference: 

  • Your boomer colleague: Job well done!
  • Your Gen-Z colleague: I’m rolling my eyes, please stop.

3. Crying 😭

The situation: You are on an internal Zoom call, and everyone has their cameras on. Suddenly, you see Jay’s dog jump up onto the screen, drop a glass of water on their laptop, and then their screen goes black.

Crying-reactions are lighting up everyone’s screens (because they’re obviously on mute), but they’re saying wildly different things:

  • Your boomer colleague: I’m bawling, I can’t believe this happened.
  • Your millennial colleague: That dog is so cute I’m crying.
  • Your Gen-Z colleague: I laughed so hard I cried.
different emojis against yellow background--nonprofit humour
Picture courtesy: Canva Pro

4. Folded hands 🙏

The situation: You get a text from your boss late Friday evening, and it says, “Hi everyone, I slipped and fell and so won’t be able to lead the team mental health walk in the park at 8 am tomorrow. Apologies to everyone who was going to join!”

Prayer hands emojis start coming in instantly, and here’s what they mean:

  • Your boomer colleague: Oh no, I’m so sorry!
  • Your millennial colleague: Thanks for the update!
  • Your Gen-Z colleague: Who was going to sign up for this in the first place?

5. The hands clapping 👏

The situation: You have a LinkedIn-obsessed funder. The unofficial mandate is that everyone who is on LinkedIn has to “react” to his posts, which, quite honestly, are just long ramblings. 

More often than not, everyone just reacts with clapping hands, but what they’re saying is:

  • Your boomer colleagues: That’s insightful! / Glad to see it! 
  • Your Gen-Z colleague: This is a waste of everyone’s time. 

6. The skull 💀

The situation: You, a boomer colleague, and a millennial colleague have formed a panel to conduct interviews together. You are going to hire a corporate crossover. The fifth time you hear the words, “synergy”, “strategy”, and “scale”, the three of you begin texting each other via emoji.

You’re all sending skull emojis, but what they mean are:

  • Your boomer colleague: I’m exhausted. 
  • Your millennial colleague: I’m laughing so hard I’m dying.

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Rajika Seth

Rajika Seth is the head of IDR Hindi, where she is responsible for strategy, editorial direction, and growth. She is a development sector professional with more than 15 years of experience working across the social sector. Rajika has also worked with Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research, Teach for India, the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, and CREA in the past. She has a BA in English Literature from Delhi University and an MA in Development Studies from IDS, University of Sussex.