It may be that you’re not the sort of man to express his witty, considered opinions in the form of upturned- thumbs, face-palms and cry-laughs. Perhaps you think emojis are best left to those born after 1995, along with Snapchat filters and the #Friyay hashtag. Even so, most of us would admit to deploying the odd :-) in order to soften the impact of a blunt request or critical comment. It’s shorthand for “I appreciate your help” or sometimes “I’m not really angry” – a bit like signing off with an ‘x’, only more office appropriate, right?
Well, not quite. In fact, new research suggests even the relative Luddites among us could be making a major misstep. A study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that the use of smileys in work emails – yes, even those of the ‘colon and close-bracket’ variety – cause recipients to perceive the sender as being less competent. According to the researchers, smiley emojis do little to increase “perceptions of warmth” and actually reduce your chances of receiving a helpful or informative reply.
Now, none of this is to suggest you should adopt a stern and sober demeanour in the workplace. Quite the opposite: in fact, a study in the journal Social Indicators Research found that cheerful employees were more likely to receive positive appraisals and promotions over the following 18 months. It’s more a case of assessing your priorities; of choosing to convey a sense of assuredness rather than agonising about whether or not your colleagues ‘like’ you.
So, when you can’t deliver a message in person, simply say what you mean in plain English and then sign off. You’ll be less likely to feel :-( when you read their response.