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How should I reply appropriately if my boss tells me that they are sick in an e-mail (the e-mail was sent only to me)? Would "I hope you will get better soon" be enough? Or should I also say something along the line of "I feel bad for you"?

Answers from any cultural contexts are welcome. (I am from Germany.)

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    Email to just you, or a group? If it was to a group, I wouldn't respond unless it appeared to be a serious illness. Does your boss really need his email clogged up with "get well soon" emails? – Mattman944 Jan 29 at 14:41
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    In English, "I feel bad for you" can be interpreted as condescending. – user76284 Jan 29 at 23:57
  • German, too. What is the context if you call in sick? My boss emails me: "Ok, thanks for the note. Get well soon." - I my boss would call in sick to me, I'd reply just the same, then forward the information to my teams secretary of to whom it may concern. – AnyOneElse Jan 30 at 14:39
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    I assume "sick" means "I have influenza and am out today" and not something like "I have cancer" in this context (as those would be very, very different things)? – Joe Jan 30 at 15:50
  • @Mattman944 if everyone takes that attitude, then the boss gets no "get well soon" email at all. If it's a group email, I'd respond if nobody else already has and if others have, but there's pertinent questions boss needs to answer for something I'm working on, then make it part of my normal email. – iheanyi Jan 30 at 16:09
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Don't overthink it. "Feel better soon!" is fine. You can also clarify if there's anything special your boss needs you to handle while they are recovering. This is what I usually reply to emails like that,

Sorry to hear that, I hope you feel better soon. Let me know if there's anything I can handle for you here in the office while you're out.

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29

Just don't make it weird.

Ask if there is anything you can do while they are off work, and leave the "get better soon" last like an email signature.

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    Dear boss, On the advice of Hristo Kolev as per workplace.stackexchange.com/a/152036/114003 I am not going to make this weird and instead wish you to get better soon. Sincerely, Aqqqq – corsiKa Jan 30 at 23:41
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    @corsiKa: you forgot the xoxoxo and a picture of an inappropriate cake. – nomen Jan 30 at 23:52
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A very simple message will do. Don't "make it weird" like Hristo Kolev said. Something like...

Hello Boss,

I am sorry to hear about your sickness. Let me know if there's anything I can do for you.

Feel better soon!

Thanks, Aqqq

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    @aaaaasaysreinstateMonica I think the example, while not giving new content from the previous answer, adds something to it. Explaining is good, showing is better. – bracco23 Jan 29 at 9:11
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Context: Canadian tech company

If the email is to me, and me alone, I would respond with:

Ok, thanks for telling me.

or, if I think they will need me to do something while they are sick:

Ok, do you need me to cover anything while you are out?

If the email is to a group, like the department or company, I wouldn't respond at all. The email has done it's job, there is no need to further complicate matters with needless communication.

"Get well soon" and similar platitudes are just meaningless small talk. Save that for when the boss comes back to work.

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    I agree "Get well soon" is often just a platitude, but omitting expected platitudes can come off wrong way, especially in written communication. To me "Ok, thanks for telling me." kind of sounds like you couldn't care less that the other person is sick. – kapex Jan 29 at 23:58
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    It all depends on what relationship you have with your boss. – Stig Hemmer Jan 30 at 9:03
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    platitudes and politeness are absolutely required, especially in many european countries. I don't like small talk but I accept it is required by others in my societies in order to make things work better for all. Given the choice I'd likely never use small talk, however the resulting effect on me from others would be deleterious. So I follow my society conventions as needed. I'm individual in many other ways I can show. – Michael Durrant Jan 30 at 10:55
  • @kapex Assuming this is my boss and not my close personal friend, not being able to care less is pretty close to accurate. This is a professional business relationship, not an after-school club. My boss matters to me to the extent that they give me work and I give them results. If I am friendly with my boss I'll absolutely sympathize with them at the water cooler when they get back, but that doesn't have any place in an official work email. – GreySage Jan 30 at 16:17
  • +1 but presumably by the time the boss comes back to work, he/she's already "gotten well", and "get well soon" is too late. – Allure Jan 31 at 1:45
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I respond ":(" in such situations. My boss sometimes mentions it (in a group) as something a bit silly, but funny and nice.

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    This is probably not appropriate in most cases. Really depends what kind of relationship you have with your boss. Given each relationship is unique, I don't think offering this advise is helpful. – ChickenFeet Jan 30 at 3:11
  • Also, If you incorporate some of @ChickenFeet's comments into your answer, it might be better received. – mcalex Jan 30 at 8:47

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