My take: More friendliness in work emails, please

Emoticons used to scare me. I used to think people wouldn’t take me seriously if I included them in professional correspondence. I thought I’d be dismissed as young, inexperienced, ill-mannered and overly familiar.

So, for a long time, I was one of those well-meaning people who craft succinct and formal work emails without too many niceties—and certainly without emoticons. I approached my emails the way I approach the news articles I write.

But recently, I came across a great blog post by Bar-David Consulting, a firm offering coaching for abrasive employees. The blog post argues that while brief emails without salutations or niceties such as “have a good weekend,” “finally, some nice weather!” and “thank you” get the job done, they usually come across as abrasive.

“The absence of kindness or appreciation where a reasonable person would expect those will naturally lead to conclusions about you: you will be perceived as rude, harsh, unappreciative or dismissive,” the post notes.

I’ve always included personal thank yous in my work emails, and it’s better to send a terse response than not to reply at all. But I can see why a no-nonsense, formal approach can make a person come across as reserved or standoffish. And tone in email is very difficult to convey: for example, a person who uses too many caps may come across as “shouting.”

So the next time I send a work email, I’ll mention the great weather we’re finally having in Toronto. And I’ll probably use emoticons. Of course, there are cases where it may not be appropriate to use emojis—like when the person you’re dealing with has a consistently formal manner, or when you’re emailing someone for the first time. But in subsequent emails, smileys could be a good way to convey humanness and positive intentions in the absence of body language.

Off-line, I smile a lot in professional settings, and I try to be approachable. So what’s wrong with letting my work emails reflect that, too?

Agree or disagree? Email me