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Gratitude towards employees - An Indian perspective

Sharing of insights from an Indian perspective

Photo of Cdr HC Guruprasad AFP
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It seems to be simple common sense - practicing gratitude can contribute to more harmonious and productive workplaces. But as we know, common sense is not very easy to come across. In my experience, Indian companies are not much  different. The traditional Indian business model inherited by the modern companies has a mean trader who heads it and gratitude is an alien feeling. I have shared some of insights below.

The transaction trap - I guess it all boils down to the reason why the business exists in the first place - if it is to create profits for a few people, this intent is understood clearly across the company and that makes the whole atmosphere highly transactional.

The transaction mentality holds sway in the competitive environment in developing countries like India where five people are waiting for each vacancy. Companies tend to treat most people as dispensable commodities. You were hired to do this job, you were paid and you did it - forget saying thanks, most companies may find saying 'well done' beyond them.

In this paradigm, in most companies, gratitude is at best understood as a good pay increase or a bonus.

Maturity of HR systems - Where HR systems are mature, the performance in a particular role gets measured accurately in line with the real purpose of the company. The person who has really put in an outstanding effort correctly gets the limelight. In most companies, this is not the case as the HR systems are customised to meet the script given by the top management and this script is usually driven by the 'contribution to the bottom line. Quantity rules over quality and a person who really made a real difference to the work place may go unrecognised if he is not in the right 'place'.

Narrow Vision - Rewards and Recognition (R & R) is a popular form of expressing gratitude in the Indian scenario though the meaning of gratitude actually goes much beyond R & R. However, in most Indian companies, people from the core operations department walk away with all the recognition. This happens because of a lack of holistic vision where the top management fails to recognise the contribution of say a service provider department. Another occasion for expression of gratitude is when the employee is leaving the company and in many companies this is one time when gratitude is readily expressed.

If the vision and mission is a truly shared one and emanates from an abundance mind set, there is space for gratitude.

Gratitude as a motivator - In the armed forces in a country like India where the men in uniform face up to many a grave threat on a regular basis and casualties are a daily reality, perceived gratitude from the civil society acts as a strong motivator. 

Spiritual Maturity - Gratitude comes from the heart and the business as it is understood from a traditional viewpoint is run in a cold blooded fashion where the rational mind dominates. The real paradigm shift therefore needs to take place from this attitude to a balanced approach where head and heart are perfectly balanced. In the spiritual classic The Bhagavadgita, the teacher Shrikrishna advocates harmony between the head and heart, when he declares  "Whererever is Krishna, the Lord of Yoga and wherever is Partha, the archer, there will be prosperity, victory, happiness and firm policy.  This is my conviction". Here, Krishna stood for self, the spiritual core, which is to be found in each and every person. Partha (Arjuna), ready with his bow, indicates a person who is willing to use his faculties to brave the challenges of life. In fact, one of the characteristics of 'Principle Centred Leaders' listed by Stephen Covey is a sense of Balance in life which he says equips him with the emotional intelligence required for truly leading from the heart. This results in a spiritually mature outlook where you start counting your blessings and start recognising that people had other options rather than believe  in your leadership, follow you and put in their best effort. It comes from a mindset of not taking even the smallest of gifts that nature provides us with for granted. 

Tell us about yourself

I have over 25 years of experience in Leadership roles in the Armed Forces and the corporate world. With this work experience and my innate interest in the Indian Spirituality, I see lot of areas where the values cherished in Eastern Mysticism can contribute to happiness at the work place.


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Hi Cdr HC Guruprasad AFP ,

Great to see you sharing your provocations around this topic and bringing your voice to the Gratitude Challenge Community!

From the insights shared in your post, we think it may be particularly interesting to for you to attend our Gratitude in the Workplace Webinar with University of Washington positive organizational leadership expert, Ryan Fehr tomorrow, Oct 13 @ 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time. He’ll be discussing recommendations for designing Ideas for this topic.

You can register for the webinar here

We hope to see you there!

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