Do Emoticons Have Any Place In An IT Manager’s Emails?

Do emoticons have any role to play in the IT workplace?
Do emoticons have any role to play in the IT workplace?
Image Credit: Alan Klim

So what kind of IT manager are you? Would you say that you have a lot of gravitas (i.e. you are cold and aloof)? Or are you warm and huggy type? I’d be willing to bet that most of us see ourselves falling somewhere in the middle of these two types of personalities. However, there’s a trend that is going on that just might cause us some problems in keeping our stiff upper lip up at work – emoticons.

What Are Emoticons & Why Do People Use Them?

So before we start this discussion, let’s make sure that all of us are on the same page here. Just exactly what are “emoticons” and where do people use them? Emoticons are smileys, winks, hugs, and LOLs. Emoticons are graphical symbols that can now be added to the emails that we send to others. They used to only be used by teenagers and emotionally unstable adults. However, they have now started to show up in the workplace and so IT managers need to understand how to deal with them.

One of the most unnerving things about emoticons is that often we receive them from team members that we don’t normally think of as being emotional. Having them append a smiling or winking face to an email that they’ve sent to you leaves you trying to understand what they are really trying to tell you. Using emoticons does introduce another layer of confusion to our email communications.

Another problem with emoticons is that they don’t always read the same way across different devices – the graphical image that you sent to someone may be displayed as a set of characters on that person’s phone / tablet / computer. This has on many occasions caused some significant confusion.

Why And How Can IT Managers Use Emoticons At Work?

So what does all of this mean for IT managers? Looks like you are going to have to develop the IT manager skills to use emoticons correctly in the workplace. However, there is no IT manager training that shows how to do this correctly. The good news is that it is now “ok” to use emoticons as a part of your work email. You just need to be very careful and choose the right time and context in which to use them.

One situation in which using an emoticon can be helpful to an IT manager is when you are trying to tell someone that the previous comment that you made in an email was a joke. Following up a statement like “I’ll be going home early today because I’ve got all of my work done” with either a smiley or a wink emoticon can let the reader know that you are just joking. Additionally, if you are a sarcastic person, then using emoticons to indicate when you’ve just said something sarcastic can avoid those times that someone who is reading your email misconstrued the tone of your email.

Emoticons do play an important role in our modern email communications. First, emails have always been very poor at trying to communicate the tone of the person who is writing the email. By adding emoticons to our emails we are now able to signal our intensions. Additionally, the use of emoticons shows that there is a special relationship between the sender and the receiver. An IT manager can view the use of emoticons in their emails as a form of IT team building.

What All Of This Means For You

Communicating with the members of your team is hard enough. You need to make sure that they know that you are in charge and so you need to make sure that there is an air of formality to your emails. However, somehow emoticons have worked their way into the workplace and now they are starting to show up into our emails.

Emoticons are symbols that can be added to our email communications in order to convey emotion. This can in some cases be a good thing – emails are notoriously difficult tools with which to convey the “tone” of our message. However, many IT managers are not comfortable using these types of graphical emotional symbols in our emails. Additionally, they can look different when the receiver of our email takes a look at it.

Emoticons are becoming popular and support for them are being built into almost all of the tools that we use to send emails. These communication tools are going to work their way into our emails no matter if we like it or not. What we need to do is understand what our emoticon choices are and then use them very, very carefully to improve the clarity of our email communications.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Are there any people in your workplace that you would recommend not using emoticons with when you send them email?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If I asked you what the most important characteristic of a successful IT manager was, what you tell me? I’m sure that some of you would think about your IT manager skills and then say “good decision making”, others would say “budgeting”, and so on. It turns out that you would all be wrong. It turns out that the #1most important personality characteristic for an IT manager to be successful is for them to be “likable”.