Are you a serial emoticoner? In order to answer that question, you probably have to know what an “emoticoner” is: someone who sends emoticons, pictorial representations of facial expressions. Examples below:

;-)         :-)         :-P       :-(

Many of us use emoticons in everyday forms of communication such as texts to our loved ones or emails to our friends, but is the workplace, particularly workplace email, really the place for that?

Ten years ago you probably would have easily answered that question “absolutely not.” After all, emails at work were intended to be strictly business and written in formal context. But, email communication among clients and coworkers has become a lot more laid back over the years, thus opening the door to the “emoticon issue.”

HR Florida Review and the Florida Institute of Technology recently set out to uncover the science behind the use of emoticons and found the following: emoticons reduce the negativity effect in the business-related email message. Lots can be lost in email translation and sometimes the recipient may think you are being harsh, when a simple “smiley” at the end of the sentence lightens the mood and lets the reader know you aren’t angry and are still on good terms.  However, those who use emoticons, while perceived as more friendly, were also perceived as less professional.

Here’s what we think at HR Shield: email messages that are not clear or require some type of emoticon to let the person know how you’re really feeling should really be conversations you have in-person or at the very least on the phone. Additionally, there are other ways to let people know how you feel outside of emoticons. In an earlier entry “HR Shield’s Lesson on Office Email Etiquette” we noted two things that are rather relevant to this subject:

End Emails With Positive Salutations: The subject of your email may not always be positive, in fact you may be delivering bad news. But, never fail to let people know they are in fact appreciated. Sign off with “Thank you,” “Regards,” “Much appreciated,” or other nice sayings. (This is a much more professional approach vs. utilizing emoticons).

Think Twice: Reread all emails before sending. If the message is not clear, or is left up to too much interpretation, do not send it. Think of a way to reword the message before creating an avoidable miscommunication, or, as we said earlier: have the conversation in-person if possible!

Also, think about your workplace and the culture you’d like to uphold. Are emoticons too unprofessional and childish? How do you want to be perceived as a colleague, manager, client, or vendor each time you send an email?

HR Shield is committed to helping improve office atmospheres everywhere.  From HR best practices and basic office protocol to benefits and taxes, we’re here to help. Need more support than our weekly blog? Contact your HR Shield Advisor at (877) 636-9525!