A senior manager whom I will call Kate wrote to me asking for advice about the use of smiley faces in email.
Kate's question had an unusual twist involving her boss: he wanted her to use smiley faces, but she was resisting.
Kate told me she views smiley faces as silly and unprofessional, but her boss wants her to use them in internal emails to "better express" her emotions.
It is difficult for me to imagine how a smiley face could help Kate express herself any better than words can, especially at the senior manager level. In fact, the only reason I can think of for Kate to use smiley faces would be to come across as more approachable if, in her role as a senior manager, she runs the risk of intimidating others.
I don't know that Kate has the issue of coming across as aloof or unapproachable. She was friendly yet professional in her message to me. But perhaps her boss is trying to help her appear more down to earth to employees.
Plenty of people have written to complain to me about the unprofessional, smiley face-pocked messages they receive daily. Especially offensive are the blindly habitual smiley faces that decorate sentences all through a message, even the signoff. So I cannot side with Kate's boss, not without knowing more. I suggest that she use words to "better express" her emotions, phrases such as "happy to," "thank you so much," and "look forward to working with you."
Do the senior managers who write to you use smiley faces? Do the emoticons change your feelings about the messages or the managers?