Avoid 'smiley' emojis in business-to-business emails

Posted Sep 28, 2017 by Tim Sandle
When sending out that business email, the use of a smiley face emoji and similar emoticons probably won't create a positive impression, according to new research.
Sending a short email is estimated to add about four grammes (0.14 ounces) of CO2 equivalent (gCO2e)...
Sending a short email is estimated to add about four grammes (0.14 ounces) of CO2 equivalent (gCO2e) to the atmosphere
Mehdi Fedouach, AFP
Not only could the emoticon not lead to a positive reaction, researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev note that the ubiquitous smiley could could even undermine information sharing. Summed by Dr. Dr. Ella Glikson, who led the study: "Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence."
The researcher adds: " formal business e-mails, a smiley is not a smile."
Showing your friends how you really feel.
Showing your friends how you really feel.
The finding is based on a survey of businesses, looking at both internally sent e-mails and emails sent from one business to another. For the research the academics conducted a experiments with a total of 549 participants across 29 different countries. There were two main experiments.
Drop the smiley
In the first experiment, the participants were requested to read a work-related e-mail sent from an unknown person. The participants next evaluated the competence and warmth of that person. Each participant received a similar message; however, some emails included smileys while others did not.
It was found that smileys in an e-mail had no impact on the perception of warmth, and, with many respondents, the presence of the smiley generated a negative effect in terms of the perception of competence. This, the researchers noted, is in contrasted to face-to-face interactions where a smile helps people to engage with each other.
Photographs of senders trump smileys
With the second experiment, the use of a smiley was compared to a smiling or neutral photograph accompanying the email as a head-shot (as can occur with email platforms like Outlook). With a photograph, the smiling sender was regarded as more competent and friendly than a neutral one. However, if the email included a smiley added to the text, there was perception shift and the sender was perceived as less competent.
The business psychology research has been published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, with the peer-reviewed paper headed "The Dark Side of a Smiley."