Heena Manish Kapoor, Primary school teacher working in Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

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There is no harm in making someone feel good

I use smileys in work-related emails. A smiley is just one way to express an emotion. I don’t think that using a smiley is any measure of competence. True, we go there to work, but we are all humans. And a positive interaction improves the connection between colleagues, which has a positive impact on the work outcome.

I also don’t agree that people presume someone using a smiley is unable to express themselves in words. We write whatever we want to write but the fact is that in an email it is difficult to show what we really feel. Using a smiley is an indirect way to show what we are feeling in a particular situation. Also, when we receive an email which has a smiley in it, it brings a smile on our faces, too. So momentarily, it eases our stress and has a positive impact. Everybody likes to be around someone who has positive vibes, so it makes you feel refreshed.

We are so used to using emoticons that it is not difficult to imagine it becoming a standard part of communication – whether personal or corporate. Even if somebody is in a senior position there is no harm in making a person feel good. In fact, I think someone might feel more connected to the person and more dedicated to work for them.

From Ms Heena Manish Kapoor

Primary school teacher working in Dubai

Too candid

A thumbs up from your boss can feel like it diminishes your effort

It is okay when communicating internally or with known acquaintances otherwise it’s highly unprofessional using a smiley in an email. Your single playful smiley can make or break a multi-million dirham deal or a potential job opportunity. Do you really want to take your chances?

Typically, people who use smileys throw me a little off because I find it a little unprofessional and too candid. It also changes the impression you can have on your client. Expectations can drop and if they have just decided to work on a project with you, they might start rethinking if you are capable of handling it.

In my field of work, I deal with business owners and high-profile clients, so we can’t use smileys.

You also need to put it in context – it depends who you are writing to, because that makes a big difference. If you are communicating with colleagues, I think you can be candid but if you are communicating with someone outside the company that is where the seriousness comes in. Also, emojis can help make the office environment friendly. The current trend is towards more transparency in management and a more relaxed office environment. So, having emojis in general communication within the company, even with seniors, can help.

I am a millennial but I am happy with the more traditional style of communication. I feel you do a better job expressing yourself by writing rather than a smiley face or a thumbs up. A single thumbs up makes less of an impression compared to, “great work, thank you for your help” or “great job”. Those phrases work better in relaying your feelings. Come to think of it, as an employee you work quite hard and if your boss replies with just a thumbs up, it feels like it diminishes your effort.

From Mr Shreyas Ganga

Sales executive working in the hospitality industry

Unprofessional

I hope emoticons never become part of corporate culture

I never have and never would use emojis; it just seems so unprofessional. However, I never use emojis in ‘normal’ text, anyway because I personally hate them. If you need to show emotion in a work email or letter, then do it with words. We have moved on from hieroglyphics. If you can’t be bothered to type a few words in place of an emoji in a professional context, then your colleagues and clients need not show you the same respect.

Generally, I would agree with the statement that

Using smileys is considered a sign of incompetence because it implies that the person cannot express themselves in words. I accept that they can be used to shorten your speech. But, as a general rule, if you can’t express it with words, I would say don’t try. But a bigger part of the issue is that in a professional environment, you don’t need to show that level of emtion that the emoji is implying.

Also, I don’t think using emoticons makes the work environment friendly. If you consider all the stress and office politics, if anything, emojis make it more convoluted and harder to get the point across. As someone who prefers words, I would find it easier to understand what my colleague means if they didn’t use an emoji. Because if they did use one, I would need to work out what the emoji mean and the message behind it, so it makes things more complicated, at least for me.

But will emojis ever make their way into corporate communication? I will stay hopeful and say they won’t. It seems unprofessional and unnecessary to shorten sentences in order to convey a picture message of an emotion. More cultured and sophisticated means of communicating exist and we don’t need to take a step back, even for the sake of simplicity.

From Mr Khalid Samea Al Mutawaa

Hotel management analyst based in Dubai

Evolution

Emoticons can emphasise emotion, but can never be used independent of the written word

Language evolves with society. We have more and more words now that are related to the internet that did not exist 10 years ago. The word emoji, for example, is one of those words.

Language gets influenced by many factors. In French, we have old words that are not used anymore. Also, Quebec, which is the French-speaking part of Canada, saw French evolve very differently from the one in France. So, now you have two kinds of French. The Quebec French also took in a lot of influence from English, for example. So, language gets influenced by your environment.

When it comes to emojis, this is the most recent language to exist and it is more to illustrate emotions than anything else. You are not going to use it in a long phrase or to express your political thoughts. At the most, you can use it in a tweet to express your emotion – “I hate this person or politician” and with it if you have an emoji, it will emphasise what you want to say. But that is where it is limited, it can emphasise a point, but does not help make the main point you are trying to communicate.

From another perspective, people would complain that in text messages or emails, sometimes you don’t know if what a person said is a joke, a serious matter or even a reproach. Emojis will make that clear. It helps you clarify the tone of what you want to say, because otherwise there can be some misunderstanding.

However, more than anything else, a lot of people would not dare to use an emoji because they feel like it looks childish. It can bring your professionalism into question. One of my colleagues, who is a woman, told me recently she sends smileys to her female colleagues but would dare not send it to a man because they might think she isn’t serious enough.

So, that is another factor that comes into play. We see a difference in the way men and women express their emotions and, hence, use emojis.

But no matter how popular they get, emoticons are still limited – they cannot express every emotion and they do not represent every culture.

From Dr Joanna Seraphim, Assistant professor in anthropology living in Abu Dhabi

Poll question: Have you ever used a smiley in a work email?

Yes 57%

No 43%