CBS Local — 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.
Reading “:)” in the content of a work email makes readers think that the sender is less competent than they would if the same email had no smiley face, according to a new study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
“Our findings provide first-time evidence that, contrary to actual smiles, smileys only marginally increased perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence,” said Ella Glikson, one of the study’s authors and a post-doctorate fellow at the BGU Department of Management, in a press release. “In formal business e-mails, a smiley is not a smile.”
While smiles normally communicate warmth and workplace competence in person, adding one to a work email could also make the reader less likely to share as much information as the sender in their reply, according to the researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
“Information sharing was significantly lower in the smiley condition than in the control condition,” the researchers write, suggesting that smiley faces in emails could might inhibit communication within the workplace.
Including smileys in work emails also affected the recipient’s perception of gender, the researchers said. When the recipient did not know the sender’s identity, participants were more likely to assume the emails with smileys were from women. But that assumption did not affect the sender’s perceived level of competence.
The researchers observed these results after conducting three experiments with 549 people from 29 countries, according to the study.
Glikson said current or prospective employees should not taint their only chance at a first impression by using a smiley face in an email.
“In initial interactions, it is better to avoid using smileys, regardless of age or gender,” she said.