Careers

Study: Using emojis in a work email makes you seem incompetent

When meeting someone in person, body language experts say that smiling can portray confidence and warmth. Online, however, smiley faces could be doing some serious damage to your career.

In a new study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, researchers found that using smiley faces makes you look incompetent.

The study, written by Ella Glikson, Arik Cheshin and Gerben A. van Kleef says, "contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence."

This can have devastating consequences for your career. The report explains, "Perceptions of low competence, in turn, undermined information sharing."

Chances are, if you are including a smiley face in an email, the last thing you want is for your co-workers to think that you are so inadequate that they chose not to share information with you.

Melissa Llarena, CEO and founder of Career Outcomes Matter
Melissa Llarena
Melissa Llarena, CEO and founder of Career Outcomes Matter

Formal workplace culture usually discourages these types of electronic displays of emotion. "The adverse effects of smiley use are moderated by the formality of the social context and mediated by perceptions of message appropriateness," argues the study.

Melissa Llarena, founder and CEO of career coaching firm Career Outcomes Matter, tells CNBC Make It that the best rule of thumb when considering using symbols like emojis and smileys is to follow your boss' lead.

"Think about whether higher-ups are using emoticons," she says. "Take a cue from company leadership."

Avoiding smiley faces and emojis is particularly important when communicating with someone who ranks above you. "If you are emailing someone who is more senior than yourself then yes, stay away from them," says Llarena.

Following these rules can help you build a professional and competent reputation she says. "If you want to gain responsibilities and grow professionally, then show up professionally online and offline when it comes to workplace interactions."

While you should continue to spread joy around the office and show off your pearly whites in person, hold off from sending smiley faces over email.

As the report explains, "A smiley is not a smile."

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