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The rise of the smiley :-) Appropriate for use in business?

With text, email, tweets and ‘likes’ being at the forefront of our communication methods, it’s no surprise that our ‘limited character slang’ and text abbreviations like the smiley are finding their way in to business documents and communication, but is it right and how easily can they be misunderstood…?

smileyI have found myself using the classic smiley face 🙂 to ‘lower the tone’ of an email to a colleague or even candidate, but surely if my communication had been done over the phone or face-to-face, I would have been able to express my tone far more clearly. Do people like receiving a smiley face? I am totally open to a little smiley face from my friends but from my boss…? I instantly get the impression that the message is ‘jokey’ and will easily skim read the content.

The commonly misunderstood semicolon

While many of us still seem to have to look up the use of our ‘friend’ the semicolon, it can cause all sorts of issues in symbol faces and I have recently read about a woman who had a formal compliant upheld after her line manager sent her a ‘wink’ 😉 apparently by mistake…

head in hands

LOL or lol?

I received an LOL from a client after I sent him some feedback. My colleague thought this was a bit too friendly, to which I replied – “Laugh out loud, what’s wrong with that?” and she said “or Lots of Love?”… But is either actually appropriate and does our colloquialisms and level familiarity diminish our professional image?

It’s called social media…

The term social media doesn’t hide its function – it’s a way of sharing your ‘social’ views, opinions and actions to a ‘media’ audience, whoever they may be. Working in recruitment you hear and see some pretty silly social media faux pas: the chap that went to an interview and wrote a public Facebook message afterwards saying the interviewer was a ****; the girl that accidently texted her boss “I can’t wait for later big boy 🙂 xxx ” instead of her partner (next to each other in her mobile contacts list); a CV I opened from a senior marketer that had a smiley 🙂 in the profile text after a sentence about being fun, enthusiastic and motivated – I still spoke to this person but I took out the smiley face before I sent it to the client.

We live a world where there are now companies that can ‘erase’ your Google past so it doesn’t haunt you… but maybe we should just go back to the old saying, “don’t mix business and pleasure”? If you don’t want your boss or colleagues to see something – don’t write it in the public domain! You don’t have to make Facebook friends with or follow all of your colleagues on Twitter – it’s your personal profile, so manage it sensibly. If you want a message to be light-hearted or need to get across a point with an empathetic tone, in some circumstances it may be better to have chat over the phone or face-to-face.

Personally, I say leave the text chat for friends and keep it professional when communicating about work and perhaps try to use less text chatter for business, as it could save a lot of confusion and potential embarrassment. In our office, we all have slightly different opinions on this subject. What do you think?


Georgina Lay is an Account Manager at Touchpoint Resource Ltd

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