SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions


Each week with thanks to Energia - broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins Newstalk Drive to answer all your employment-related questions.

The rise of the emoji has certainly added a new measure of depth to the way many of us chat over text – but does that cheeky wink have a role in our working lives?

This week we ask Bobby whether our love of the smiley face has translated to the workplace.

It comes after a new study warned that the use of perky emojis while working can make your colleagues less likely to share information with you – and even saddle you with a reputation for ineptitude.

The researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel have suggested that the effect can be so damaging, emojis of all kinds should be avoided.

As a prolific user of emojis himself, Bobby has mixed feelings on the topic – as well as a handy list of do’s and don’ts.

“Emojis are great because for me they are a form of shorthand,” he says.

“I think you would never use an emoji where you were giving a bad message; where it was a difficult request; if it was a new client - it has to be in an appropriate situation.”

Bobby’s advice is to only opt for the emoticon with somebody you know well – adding that it is an “an absolute no, no” to use them with a client or in a professional situation.

Bobby’s five simple rules for workplace emoji use are:

  • Keep the situation in mind.
  • Practice discretion.
  • Only use only emojis you understand – you don’t want to inadvertently send the wrong message.
  • Avoid using emojis that could be interpreted as flirtation, anger or romance.
  • Never use emojis with a potential client

“A picture says so much but you have to be very careful,” says Bobby.

“I think in informal communication around the office, I am all for them - I think they tell a thousand words.

“Considering emojis just like slang is a good rule of thumb.

“You don’t use slang in inappropriate situations. You would never use slang at an interview or at a formal event so that is how I would treat it. Consider it like a first date - never when you don’t know somebody.”

Our next listener is facing a rather more modern communication problem.

Bobby, my company recently let our manager go. I have been asked to do his job with the promise of talking to me, in a matter of weeks, about money and making my position as manager official. This was six weeks ago and there has been no discussion since.

For Bobby, the way to approach this is to be straight forward and well-prepared.

If there has been no discussion for six weeks the first step for this listener is to ask for a meeting.

The meeting provides an opportunity to highlight what you have been doing, what you have achieved and what you expect in return.

“He needs to have the conversation with the boss and he hasn’t done it,” says Bobby.

“I would sit down with the boss and I would ask if he is happy with how I am performing in this new manager’s role - and I would remind him of our last conversation.

“I think most employers - if they ask somebody to operate as a manager - will look to increase their remuneration. I think any reasonable employer would expect the conversation.”

Bobby’s advice to employers in this situation is to take control and make sure that you treating your workforce fairly.

“I think you are at a disadvantage as an employer if you wait for an employee to come in all aggrieved,” he says.

“You are better off saying I have asked this guy to do this extra work, I will give him an extra couple of quid and you are in control then.

“To leave it fester and have a guy come in then who is all disgruntled because you said you would do this and you didn’t and you have a situation on your hands – it doesn’t make sense.”

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s workplace advice from Tuesday’s Newstalk Drive here:

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to [email protected]

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