If you’ve ever used one of these 🙂 in a work email—especially a work email in which you were asking for something—I totally get it. It can be difficult to convey a friendly tone in an email, and studies show that women are disproportionately penalized for being disliked at work, so it makes sense to think that adding a literal smiling face to the end of your emails might be in your best interest.
But according to a recent study conducted at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, people who use the smiley emoji in work emails are actually perceived as less capable and less trustworthy than those who avoid emoji altogether.
As Dr. Ella Glikson from Ben-Gurion University puts it, “Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence.” Yikes.
In the study, 549 participants from 29 different nations were asked to read a work-related email from an unknown sender. After that, they were asked to evaluate the “competence and warmth” of the person who drafted the email.
The conclusion? Not only did including a 🙂 emoji in work-related emails have a “negative effect on the perception of competence,” but email responses didn’t come back as detailed when smiley emoji were part of the conversation.
So, even though most emoji-using folks might think email smileys convey the same amount of warmth that smiling IRL does, Glikson says this isn’t the case when you’re at work:
“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.”
The studydidshow one exception to this rule, though. If you already know the person you’re emailing, the smiley emoji can, in fact, convey actual warmth. As Glikson explains, “For now, at least, a smiley [emoji] can only replace a smile when you already know the other person.”
So, there you have it. Unless you’re super tight with your coworkers, you should probably save that smiley emoji for Instagram captions and texting. 😉