Emoticons in the Workplace

Article, Jen Loglia No Comments

Jen Loglia | October 8, 2012

Scenario 1: You’re at work. You’re sitting at your desk, when an email pops into your inbox. It’s from your boss (gasp).

To: So-and-So
From: Your Boss

So-and-So,

You forgot to put a coversheet on your TCP report; this is a new thing the company is doing. Please don’t forget to put a coversheet on your next one.

-Your Boss

Scenario 2: You’re at work. You’re sitting at your desk, when an email pops into your inbox. It’s from your boss (gasp).

To: So-and-So
From: Your Boss

So-and-So,

You forgot to put a coversheet on your TCP report; this is a new thing the company is doing. Please don’t forget to put a coversheet on your next one. :)

-Your Boss

Scenario 3: You’re at work. You’re sitting at your desk, when an email pops into your inbox. It’s from your boss (gasp).

To: So-and-So
From: Your Boss

So-and-So,

You forgot to put a coversheet on your TCP report; this is a new thing the company is doing. Please don’t forget to put a coversheet on your next one. :(

-Your Boss

Are each of these scenarios the same? How do you feel about your boss in each of these scenarios? How do you think your boss feels? What message is each of these emails sending, and which email sends the strongest message? How likely are you to put a coversheet on your next report, and how do you feel about the task?

These are some of the questions I would like to answer. There has been little to no research conducted about the use of emoticons in the workplace. But, because emailing and instant messaging are such popular mediums of communication, I think it’s relevant to a large section of the population, and could lead to uncovering correlations that could help organizational relationships and cultures. Recent research has shown that emoticons play the role of non-verbal cues; they give us that extra information that is lost because we are not face-to-face with another person [1]. We also know that emoticons can strengthen messages or make them more ambiguous; a positive message paired with a smiley face is perceived to be more positive, a negative message paired with a sad face is perceived to be more negative, and a positive message paired with a sad face (and vice versa) is perceived to be more ambiguous, all compared to messages without any emoticons [2]. But, there is very little research investigating, in-depth, how the receiver of the message perceives the sender feels. For example, if you’re receiving bad news from your boss via email, can your boss use an emoticon to appear more empathetic or sympathetic to you? Will that cause you to feel less bad about the news? How does that affect your view of your boss? There are so many questions to investigate, and I believe the potential information to be found will be incredibly useful to organizations and their employees.


References

[1] Derks, D., Bos, A. R., & von Grumbkow, J. (2008). Emoticons in computer-mediated communication: Social motives and social context. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 11(1), 99-101. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9926
[2] Derks, D., Bos, A. R., & von Grumbkow, J. (2008). Emoticons and online message interpretation. Social Science Computer Review, 26(3), 379-388. doi:10.1177/0894439307311611


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