And they're completely wrong.
The fact of the matter is that there is indeed a time and a place for emoticons in business correspondence. While I wouldn't recommend using them routinely, emoticons come in handy for a few specific applications:
- When you are trying to congratulate someone. Did a co-worker get a 5-year award? Productivity bonus? Sales trophy? Throw in a smiley face.
- To indicate sarcasm. That said, think very carefully before adding much sarcasm to your e-mail, since even with a smiley it can be taken the wrong way.
- To take the edge off criticism. Coaching someone? Giving some unsolicited advice? It might be a good idea to temper the comment with an emoticon to seem somewhat less confrontational.