We Indians Abuse Work Email

There is a disturbing trend that I see emerging from India that has to do with the way people use their work email.

Every week I receive numerous forwarded email chains that have been forwarded to dozens of people before it pops up in my mailbox. The contents of these emails are jokes, funny incidents and sometimes political rants. A cursory glance before hitting the delete button shows that the people forwarding the chain at some point worked for a lot of big fancy MNC’s.

A few examples.

I got an email which was originally sent out by someone working at Morgan Stanley India. That went to a whole lot of people, one of whom worked at Infosys. He forwarded it to a colleague at SAP India who forwarded it to someone at Merrill Lynch India who forwarded it to my friend who forwarded it to me. This is a typical scenario. On different days of the week the names of the MNC’s may differ. You get the gist.

The email contents are generally

A list of 12 reasons why men are better than women.

  • How Malayalis speak English.
  • Why food is better than sex.
  • Parsi “Bawaji” and “Catlick” Pao jokes et al…

…and dozens of other such similar email topics.

I do not have issues with receiving these and I take them in good humour even when there are Parsi Jokes 🙂

However I find it baffling that people working for these MNC’s actually use their corporate email ID’s to send these emails out.

If the same thing happened in the US and someone from say Merrill Lynch sent out an email about how all Rednecks are stupid (aka Sardarji kinda jokes) the employee would be fired immediately and the company could be sued by any redneck worth his salt.

However the same MNC’s seem to allow this to go on in when they are in India. I am sure there are HR personnel in their India offices too and so are there guidelines.

Is it just a case of us Indians being more tolerant and that extends into the way we use work emails ? Or is it that we are ignorant and do not even realize the implications of this in a globalized world.

If I really had a litigious bent of mind I would sue one or all of the corporations who allowed their employees to use their emails to hurt my Parsi feelings when they forwarded those funny “bawaji” jokes. I may not get a lot of money out of it, but surely a lot of publicitiy. And yes if I sue the parent company here in the US, I surely would get a good chunk of money too.

All my friends working for the above mentioned companies here in the US never abuse corporate email while their counterparts in India do.

I wonder what the actual reasons are. If you are working for an MNC, I would like to hear your opinion.



  1. Bawa jokes?

    Its unfair that bawas are hoarding all those funny jokes themselves. How come we non-bawas rarely get to hear good bawa jokes?

  2. Why is this “indians” abusing their emails? you are presumably indian and most of your freinds are…as well…so what makes you think this is not a general phenomenon of many people of different nationalities?
    Maybe you get forwards only form Indians but not me..

  3. Abhilash bhai….I will add you on my list and forward them to you the next time around.

    Subs….yes you do have a point. All the forwards I get are from Indian friends. I do have a lot of international friends in other countries…mexico…turkey….UK…austria…but they never forward emails from their workplace.

    One reason I might suspect is that Indians working in MNC’s do not have access to yahoo, gmail, hotmail etc at work (which is the case in the US) and therefore use work email and dont think much about it.

  4. I for one don’t see any point in picking offense over such mails just because they are sent from corporate ids. What a waste of time it would be to spend time litigating. Just delete the mail kahani katham.

    If on the other hand you feel that such content in itself is offensive and should be regulated then its a different story, you would have to regulate thoughts…the shiv sainiks or other radical groups may help you beat some sense into such perpetrators.

  5. the demarcation between personal and office is hardly existing among many indians. So this is not unexpected. Sadly, they don’t realize that not only do they hurt others’ sentiments with such politically incorrect stuff, they also risk litigations against the employer.
    i also find people selling railway tickets (purchased in their name). this is clearly illegal. but i see solicitations for such illegal transactions all the time on corporate network – using corporate email address and groups.

  6. Quite common here in Melbourne as well to forward jokes and links from your office email, even within the company. I see it as being not very different from the watercooler conversations or the lunchroom gossip.

    Also, nefore passing judgement, I’d ask if the company has a fair-use policy that allows employees to use Internet and email for personal reasons, so long as it is within reasonable limits. Two of the companies I worked in had such a policy.

    As for the stereotypes propagated through these emails, that is a different issue altogether.

  7. My humble opinion – I am not very sure if your questions is about why they use their corporate email ids for the purpose or if you are ruminating on whether we as a people [indians i.e ] are less politically correct.. or both.. but I would guess that there might be a few diff ressons for the above…. one being that we as a nation are not so terrified of litigation as in the US? Would u be so conscious if you were not exposed to the US corporate culture?
    I also think its a cultural difference.. where the separation between work life and Social life is not as deep as it is here..
    Another factor that might be playing here is the average age of the work force in these companies..? I think it would be much lower than in the US. though I have no stats to back that theory up..!

  8. Firstly, I think political correctness is over-rated. If you can’t laugh at yourself (and at others), go out there, get a life, open your mind a little. Secondly, if I see something funny, I will use the medium most conveniently available to send it. At office, that is most likely to be office email. (Incidentally, personal email, gmail, hotmail etc. is blocked at work.) So let’s not get uptight about this office/personal email stuff. That’s why official emails have disclaimers I’m guessing (I have no knowledge of the legal issues involved.)

  9. so now we are ruing the fact that we do not have culture of litigation like in the US…ironically in US people are getting tired of frivolous litigation

  10. Interesting post. Agree that corporate email has to be used with caution but cannot agree that non-Indians or people who work outside India do not do that. Many people do..

  11. i agree with Arzan… add Australia; Mauritius; Sing; Bahrain; and UAE to the list. besides this i think the technical reasons behind this can be associated with
    1. indian employees dont have access to personal email services in office
    2. we spend long hours in office leaving us very little time to go home and actually forward mails from personal ids.

  12. I maintain multiple personal email addresses, one just for the forwards, yahoogroups..that sort of thing. And I hate it when people keep sending forwards to my official email address, despite my asking them not to. To ensure this I generally don’t give my office address to most people.

    That said, a few friends have my address if they need to get in touch urgently. Yahoo, Gmail and most of these providers are blocked in most offices so one’s official email box is all one accesses all day.

    It can be argued that at work you are supposed to WORK and not indulge in personal activity. However, the reality is also that most companies, MNCs inclusive choose to ignore the concept of ‘work-life balance’ and happily let their employees slog through 12-hour days every day. From my little experience I find this is a very India phenomenon. So companies eat into an employee’s personal space, time and life and employees as a norm try and fit their normal needs into their life …which is almost entirely office time.

    Do I sound overly pessimistic? I work for a MNC (and have worked in another previously). I’m in what’s considered the most professional city in this country. And all my friends, colleagues and family members face this….and yes, most of them use their official email addresses.

    Sorry for the post-length-comment but your question made me think.

  13. Arzan,

    Most of the companies you mentioned in your post are banks, I think using work email may be a financial services contraint rather than an Indian peculiarity. I work for a bank in New York and SEC and NYSE forbids access to any form of communication that cannot be traced hence we don’t have access to web mail in our offices. I use my work email address for personal reasons and I guess that may be the reason your friends use their work IDs to send forwards. That being said, for all the email communication policies in place, no one is actively monitoring communication unless there is a specific complaint when all the communication can be retrieved.

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