When the mobile phone arrived in the 1990’s it brought with it other tech and cultural phenomenon. One of the cultural items that evolved with our handheld devices is the emoji. Just as the mobile phone made its way into our workday lives, so has the emoji. There are opinions upon opinions about whether to use emoji in the workplace.
Academic studies have been done to measure the appropriateness of using emoji in a professional setting. The latest numbers come from Dr. Ella Glikson, of Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Israel. According to Glikson’s research, using emoji in work emails can make colleagues think the sender is not competent, especially if the emoji was used in more formal correspondence.
“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 Glikson. “In formal business e-mails, a smiley is not a smile.”
According to the research, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, a series of experiments with a total of 549 participants from 29 different countries were conducted.
In one experiment, the participants were asked to read a work-related email 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 email had no effect on the perception of warmth, and in fact had a negative effect on the perception of competence.
“People tend to assume that a smiley is a virtual smile, but the findings of this study show that in the case of the workplace, at least as far as initial ‘encounters’ are concerned, this is incorrect,” Glikson says. “For now, at least, a smiley can only replace a smile when you already know the other person. In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender.”