Researchers in Germany led by Professor Claus-Peter Ernst at Frankfurt University have found that adding a friendly emoji or smiley face is all you need to soften the blow.
They found that happy symbols could significantly influence how the message is interpreted but that sad or negative symbols had little effect.
“The usage of happy and ironic emoticons significantly shapes the subtext of a message, namely the relationship and self-revelation level. whereas sad emoticons do not have such an effect. (So) senders can use happy or ironic to soften their messages…”
The researchers wondered if using emoticons had the same effect as non-verbal gestures and facial expression in face-to-face meetings when delivering bad news at work.
They found that recipients of a message could largely identify the social and emotional meaning of an emoticon. “... emoticons are able to help to communicate a current mood or provide information about the mental state of the sender”.
They also found that the happy and ironic emoticons had a significant effect at the relationship level ….. but not at the factual level.
This contradicts earlier research from Ben Gurion University in Israel which found that the inclusion of such emojis didn’t change people’s perception of warmth and in fact lowered their perception of the sender’s competence.
Alison Green from Inc.com makes the point that a lot depends on your workplace culture and that if you have to use an emoticon maybe your message isn’t clear enough.
Personally I think it’s unprofessional in formal communications (as bad as people adding kisses). But then I think sacking people or delivering bad news by e-mail or text is a shabby HR practice. But we see plenty of examples of that these days don’t we.
But in these days of reputational damage they can’t afford to actually insult candidates on social media.
All the national press this week covered the story of a teenager who applied for a job at a new Miller & Carter steakhouse (owned by Mitchell & Butlers).
Megan Dixon asked at the end of the interview when they would let her know and was told by the assistant manager Shantel Wesson, who had interviewed her, that she would get an e-mail in a few days. To her surprise, and dismay, she received a text within minutes saying “it’s a no x” (why managers would add a kiss to a text message is beyond me).
Dixon replied “Okay. How come? x” (and there’s that kiss again for goodness sake).
Shantel Wesson then replied “Just not engaging. And answers we’re “like” basic” followed by a ‘laughing so hard I’m crying’ emoji and another kiss.
Naturally Dixon was upset and complained to the company on twitter saying the interviewer was unprepared and her phone was going off throughout the interview. So unprofessional.
She then told The Sun newspaper about the interview: “She didn’t even shake my hand, didn’t have my CV out and was just sat drinking a coffee. Maybe because I’m 18 she thinks it’s OK not to be professional with me? I don’t know.”
“It was so rude. At the end of the interview, I asked when I would hear back. She told me it was never more than a few days and she had my email. But I got the texts a few seconds after leaving”
“I was shocked. The least she should have given me was some proper feedback. And the laughing face emoji was so unprofessional. It was a really bitchy thing to do.”
Miller and Carter had advertised up to 50 jobs at the new branch in Enderby, Leicestershire, and student Ms Dixon wanted to earn some extra cash for college.
Newspapers explained that the term “basic” was American slang meaning an unstylish or unintelligent person.
A spokeswoman said “we can’t apologise enough to Megan. It was never our intention to be disrespectful or upset her in any way. The texts were sent in error and were intended for our manager, not the candidate. However, we expect our team to act professionally at all times and to give constructive feedback after any interview via email. We are taking this extremely seriously and will be investigating to ensure it never happens again.”
In anyone’s book this is totally unprofessional behaviour. Candidates deserve respect and proper feedback – something sadly lacking these days.
And what does it say about the culture of the company that managers send each other such mocking text messages? If it were indeed actually intended for the manager.
HR probably doesn’t exist in this company but if it did some recruitment training seems well overdue,and possibly some disciplinary action against Wesson for bringing the company into disrepute?
Talking of being “basic” perhaps Shantel Wesson could take some English lessons as she obviously doesn’t know the difference between “were” and “we’re“.
And Megan, you’re young but don’t put kisses on business messages. You act professionally as well.