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Why You Shouldn’t Put Smiley Faces in Your Work E-Mails

Why You Shouldn’t Put Smiley Faces in Your Work E-Mails

August 15, 2017

Business & Management

Time — Smiley faces may seem benign, but typing them in work e-mails may be doing more harm than good.

In a new study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers from Ben-Gurion University wanted to find out whether including smileys in work e-mails actually has an effect on the message.

“:)” really does make an impression they found out, but not the friendly feeling an e-mail writer may intend.

Instead, reading a happy face in the text of a work e-mail made people think that the sender was less competent than if the same message did not contain the emoticon. Even though smiles communicate warmth and competence in person, a smiley could make the reader less likely to share as much information in the reply.

BGU researchers have shown that a smile emoji in an email is perceived as unprofessional.

“Our findings provide first-time evidence that contrary to actual smiles, smileys only marginally increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence,” says Ella Glikson, one of the study’s authors and a postdoctorate fellow at BGU’s Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management. Glikson co-authored the study with Arik Cheshin from the University of Haifa and Gerben Van Kleef from the University of Amsterdam.

“In formal business e-mails, a smiley is not a smile.”

The researchers conducted three experiments with 549 people from 29 countries. In one experiment, people read an anonymous work e-mail and then evaluated the author based on their competence. Overall, messages without smiley faces led people to believe the sender was more competent than the same e-mails with added smileys.

Furthermore, when people were asked to respond to the e-mails, they included more detailed information in their replies when responding to an e-mail without smileys, suggesting that smiley usage in e-mails could hinder communication in the workplace.

“Information sharing was significantly lower in the smiley condition than in the control condition,” the researchers explain.

The use of a smiley also had an effect on the perception of gender. The study found that when the sender’s identity was unknown, the participants were more likely to think e-mails with smiley faces were sent by a woman. This assumption, however, did not affect the sender’s perceived levels of warmth of competence.

In conclusion, Glikson advises not to let smileys ruin the only chance at a first impression.

“In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender,” she says.

Read more on the Time website >>