Using smiley faces in your work emails is a major reputation killer

Cheryl Sanders
August 16, 2017

But as it turns out, these friendly faces could actually be hurting your career.

But when an email on work-related matters included a smiley emoji, the sender was seen as less competent.

Keep your smileys and other emojis to personal communication and social networking, say researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).

To get to this conclusion, the researchers conducted three experiments in 29 countries, with 549 respondents.

Participants were each required to read similar work-related emails from a stranger and subsequently evaluate their warmth and professional competence.


Sending a smiley face to someone may seem upbeat and innocent, but adding them to work emails could be giving the recipient a bad impression of you.

However, a new study suggests you should be careful how casual you make your emails. The findings showed that the inclusion of smiley emojis did not have any effect on people's perceptions of warmth, but in fact lowered their perceptions of competence. It states that smiling in person is a sign of warmth and confidence, but when it comes to using smileys in formal spaces, it does not concern warmth at all, rather is decoded as the user being incompetent.

Recipients said those smileys didn't actually convey any friendlessness, and perhaps most damningly they actually decreased perceptions of competence.

It was also revealed that when the participants had to respond to the mails regarding formal matters, they answered it in a detail manner. But for work related emails, an inclusion of a smiley meant that the sender was perceived as less competent by the participants.

So think about the next text you send and especially the next email, as your emojis may be speaking volumes on your behalf and at times that may not be a good thing!


Participants were also more likely to guess that an emoji user in those emails was a woman. This assumption however did not affect the perception of friendliness or competence.

But this study shows that at least for initial encounters, this assumption is not correct.

'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", she said.


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