Get Ready

2017 / 15 August

Stop using the smiley emoji at work


The smiley emoji has dark side.

There is a new study that says using the beloved smiley face emoticon in work emails makes people think you’re an amateur–particularly if you work in a “formal” workplace.

Upon reading, I had a calm reaction.

But then I thought about and as if on cue, the golden strength of all of the invaluable “girl power” + Lean In types of training allowed me to gain a deeper understanding.

By my standards, using an emoji at work is akin to work evils such as apologizing/saying “sorry” all the time, abusing exclamation points, starting sentences with “just” and lastly, not taking any vacation days. (Okay that last one has absolutely nothing to do with email, but you know you’re guilty of it.)

According to the study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), the smiley face emoji and similar emoticons included in work-related e-mails may not create a positive impression and could even undermine information sharing.

“Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence,” explained Ella Glikson, a post-doctorate fellow at the BGU Department of Management, in a press release. “In formal business e-mails, a smiley is not a smile.”

How did they find this out? Here are the (abbreviated) deets:

In one experiment, the participants (549 participants from 29 different countries) were asked to read a work-related e-mail from an unknown person and then evaluate both the competence and warmth of that person. The participants all received similar messages. Some included smileys while others did not. The results demonstrated that in contrast to face-to-face smiles, which increase both competence and warmth, the smileys in an e-mail had no effect on the perception of warmth, and in fact had a negative effect on the perception of competence.

My last thought:

Using an emoji is cute, but why are we always trying to be cutesy in work communications? We treat emojis as if they are the almighty peacemaker, softening our words in a single bound. We use it just in case someone misinterprets our words (and if that’s the case, you need to reword your email or go talk to the intended in person so there is no confusion).

Use your words. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. You are competent and don’t need emojis as an interpreter. Your words matter.

Source: The Dark Side of a SmileySocial Psychological and Personality Science – Ella Glikson, Arik Cheshin, Gerben A. van Kleef, 2017

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