Why Do Indians Not Say Thanks At Work Or Otherwise

It was a Friday evening, my phone was buzzing with constant messages on Whatsapp, from friends who wanted to know when I’d be leaving work. We had plans. Or at least they did. I was in office helping a colleague set up something she’d rather have me do, than do it herself. At around 10, I was finally done, I mean she was done.  I was set to leave, just not to what my friends had planned, but home.

One small problem, she never said thanks. Thanks is a far cry, I wasn’t even acknowledged for the help.  I assume it was assumed that it’s just a part of my job, it was taken for granted that I’d do it, and the fact that it was an important piece of work, and I was held back in office for a few additional hours on a Friday evening, didn’t seem to strike anyone.

Nope, no cupcakes were sent. No gushing emails thanking me for my hard work or time. No peer bonuses, definitely.

That is not the first time though and that is a problem, people. People in India, as well elsewhere, need to say thanks more often. Whether for a job done as responsibility or as a favour, how does a plain thank you hurt everyone?

A salary doesn’t mean an entitlement for being ungrateful. 

The situation isn’t just bad in offices, but in pretty much every sphere of life in India. Get off an auto, no thanks. Ask someone for direction, zoom off, no thanks. In fact as a brand manager, I’ve noticed it with contests, when announced winners, more than being thankful for having got selected for a prize, get aggressive about when their booty will reach them. The sense of entitlement, over a hint of gratefulness, is slightly concerning.

Why are we such a thankless bunch of people?

(Sorry Bollywood movies, you have ruined it for everyone with your “Dosti mein no thank you no sorry’s”.)


While a bunch of companies realise this and appreciate that people need to be recognised for their hard work and sometimes going the extra mile, the process is corporate-ised, and is a process after all. For example, a few companies have an informal system in place to post thank you notes to their helpful colleague’s desk. Google, the mecca of great work culture goes as far as to have an entire internal portal where employees can send “Kudos” to their colleagues, and in extra-ordinary cases of can even send peer bonuses amounting to cash rewards.

The problem however seems to be the general mindset that a job that’s expected of one, needn’t be thanked for.

From a few interactions with my global colleagues confirm that the problem is rather specific to the Indian continent. I have noticed that the aforementioned colleagues would say thanks for the smallest things. Even angry emails or ones with a scathing feedback, would usually be signed off with a thanks. Disha who works in Canada, says of the country in this article about what it’s like to work in other countries in the world, “Canada is a famously polite society. So for instance if someone sees me walking towards the door, they wait till I get there to swipe the card for me to go through! That person will wait up to an entire minute to hold the door open for me. Even if someone is trailing me, and enters the loo with me and I hold the door open for a split second, there’s a round of thank yous and no worrys exchanged!”

The Indian problem or “culture” of not saying thanks seem to be so pronounced and noticed by the Westerners, that this particular American gentleman had to post on Quora to find out why.

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 7.59.21 pm

Maybe it’s worth debating about if little things like these reflect our culture or in fact shape it in a way. Indians usually aren’t known as the most polite or courteous people, and instances like these where words like please, sorry and thank you seem to be conspicuous by their absence in our collective vocabularies across offices and outside, just corroborates this.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone