Update: (Originally this was a comment, but I thought it was worth sharing here at the top.)
In the original question, I asked if there was a polite, socially-acceptable way to ask an Indian co-worker not to use the phrase "do the needful", as I didn't care for it.
In the years since I asked this question I've asked many people about the phrase. To the Indians I've asked in-person, it's not rude in any way. To Americans I've asked it varies anywhere from "I don't like it, but I don't mind it" to "It's very rude and makes me angry when I see it".
Through a long series of edits the question morphed and I wasn’t able to delete it because it had upvoted answers. The question, as it stands now, has no other answer.
I guess, though, if you're non-Indian and you find it rude, or if you're Indian and you've never realized someone might find it rude, this post may still have merit. Hopefully it does. It certainly has gotten a lot of views. Best wishes, folks.
End Update. See below for what's left of the actual question.
"Do the needful."
It's a phrase that I've only seen used in email, and I find it . . . presumptuous (maybe even rude). Regardless of prefacing with "please", one is commanding rather than asking for assistance.
I've only seen it used by those of Indian origin, so I've simply not mentioned it at all rather than worry about any cross-cultural offense that may come of bringing it up.
But still, I don't understand why it's used. Why not request rather than make two statements, one factual, one imperative?
For example, why would one use:
- I'm told you have Jane's email address. Please do the needful.
- Would you send me Jane's email address?