Want to be respected at work? Ditch the emojis

  • 20/08/2017
Keep emojis out of work emails if you want to appear competent. Photo credit: Getty

Keep emojis out of work emails if you want to appear competent, a new study has found.

A personality science study has found using emoticons in work-related emails makes you look inept.

In the study, participants read emails with and without emoticons and were asked for their opinion of the sender. 

The unanimous conclusion? Leave emojis out of formal emails.

One of the study's authors, Ella Glikson, said it was widely thought using emojis was a positive thing, but across all 29 countries surveyed, smiley faces were deemed too informal for work-related emails.

The academic study touts itself as the first investigation into the effects of 'smileys' on first impressions in the workplace. 

In light of the increasing presence of visual forms of communication, Ms Glikson told CNN she wanted to study the effects of the emoticons on meaning.

Originally optimistic about the positive power of emoticons, she said the initial results surprised her.

She and her co-authors focused on the specific effects of smileys on first impressions in a workplace, and their results were consistent across all examples.

Using three different experiments with 549 participants from 29 countries Ms Glikson, from Ben Gurion University in Israel, found that even if smileys had an overall positive effect of the tone of the message, the effect was often eclipsed by the decrease in perceived competence.

The study also found using emoticons negatively influenced the willingness of the email's recipient to share information.

Ms Glikson said the norms for online communication might be confusing, in that what works in an informal context "could be devastating in the formal context".

She said they were motivated to perform the study after noticing the impact emoticons had on team processes and interpersonal interactions.

The group with the most to win, or lose, from the study was the young generation just entering the job market, she said.

She said as emoji evolves into a new communication tool, people needed to learn the rules and limitations of this new language.

The study was published in journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.