Career

The One Place Where You Should Never Use Emojis

In a world where IRL hangs are becoming much less common, it only makes sense to flavour your work e-mails with some virtual sentiment, right? Maybe not: new research says using emojis could be making you look like a bit of an idiot.

Emojis are as popular as ever – with over six billion of the bloody things being sent daily. The groovy little emoticons were made famous during our MSN glory days, and we’ve refused to look back – showing up in different formats to help us non-verbally communicate with our mates.

The first ever case of emoticon use dates back to the 1850s, where the number ‘88’ would be sent via Morse code to symbolise ‘love and kisses’ – cute. Even a transcript of one of Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 speeches is said to have featured a cheeky winky face – the sly little devil.

But now it seems there’s a time and a place for spicing up our convos, and work isn’t one of them. A study has allegedly concluded, “a smiley is not a smile” and academics have warned that your excessive use of emojis could be threatening your job prospects, or even damaging workplace relationships.

Dr Ella Glikson, a post-doctorate at Ben-Gurion University – leaders of the study – has said, “Smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence, in formal business e-mails”.

According to a new paper published in the journal Social Psychological and Personal Science, researchers from BGU, University of Haifa and Amsterdam University conducted a series of experiments with a total of 549 participants from 29 different countries.

In one of the experiments, the participants read a work-related e-mail from an unknown person, and then were asked to evaluate the person’s competence and warmth… some e-mails included emojis, some didn’t.

The findings revealed those senders who decided to pepper their message with emojis had no effect on the perception of warmth, and in fact had a negative effect on the perception of competence.

The study also found that when asked to reply to these emoji-ridden correspondences, workers were more formal and didn’t include any smileys. “We found that the perceptions of low competence if a smiley is included in turn undermined information sharing” Dr Glikson said.

The e-mails were anonymous, and didn’t reveal a specific gender. Interestingly enough, recipients were more likely to assume the sender was female if they used emojis. This didn’t influence the evaluation of competence or friendliness but could mean that the ladies of the office are just plain nicer.

It seems for now it’s better to save your smiles for the realms of reality (or at least just the group chat).


Bradley is a writer from Newcastle who enjoys travel, Tina Fey and is a connoisseur of cheap red wine.