I just received an SMS from my boss which says "Happy Birthday, enjoy your day! John." If it was a close friend, I would have most likely replied with "thanks John, I will :)", but since this is my boss, I am not sure in what way to reply.

Would the example above be too 'informal'? Maybe some better ideas/suggestions?

Maybe something I should mention. I don't really celebrate birthdays and never really told someone when my Birthday is. This is the first time in years someone said Happy Birthday to me and I am just not sure how to react...

  • 4
    Is the real issue that you don't celebrate birthdays (for religious or other personal reasons)? Or is it really just "how do I respond correctly?" Both are fine questions. Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 22:11
  • 43
    This is the first time in years someone said Happy Birthday to me :(
    – dbanet
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 0:39
  • 3
    If you want to avoid using their forename name, just " Thanks. I will! :-) " is all that's needed. Don't overthink.
    – Richard
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 11:01
  • 2
    "Thanks, boss, but did you mean to say 'enjoy your day off'?" Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 21:48
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    I'd say the bigger problem here is not being able to participate in pretty basic interactions without asking the internet. I'd love a description of the environment in which the boss is creating such anxiety. My boss was nice to me. Is s/he secretly trying to have me executed?
    – Gusdor
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 10:10

6 Answers 6


'Thanks, you have a great day as well!'

  • 4
    The exception being if today is not your birthday. That happened to me and I sent a similar reply. I should have clued in that my employer's records were inaccurate. Later that would result in insurance snafu.
    – emory
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 21:50

Sending a text to wish yo a happy birthday is an informal friendly gesture. At the risk of being cynical this may be an automated system...

I would say that if someone signs a message with their first name only it is fine to reply using their first name. Indeed it is rare in the English speaking world that calling a superior by their first name would be a gross faux-pas in an out of work context.

If you want to be completely safe a reply like 'Thankyou, very much appreciated' is warm without being too informal. Although a text message is inherently an informal and casual means of communication and you don't want to get into the realms of 'Dear Sir I am deeply humbled by you most generous felicitations of which I consider myself most unworthy....'. ;)

  • "At the risk of being cynical this may be an automated system..." Really? An automated system to save 30 seconds * X employees per year? I suppose dumber things have been done.
    – user45590
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 14:03
  • 1
    I'd guess more of an automated system so the boss can look like he's on the ball without any effort or risk of forgetting on his part.
    – Mike A.
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 16:33

I'd thank the boss in person, and stay away from SMS. If you reply by SMS, you're implicitly encouraging the use of it (later) for non-emergencies. It can become intrusive.

  • 25
    That just isn't realistic. Thanking someone for an SMS a day (or more) is just incredibly awkward and you're reading way too much into a simple text. Ignoring texts from people at work to establish boundaries is fine but even then you can take the time to just reply with a "thanks".
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 22:56
  • @Lilienthal, I think the cognitive dissonance with this approach is yours and yours alone. Awkward? This is no different than if you received a card in the mail. Timing is a non-factor. Unless it's already been established that one is obligated to respond to text messages, there's no obligation. Some people, preferring less interruption, block ALL text messages. If this were me I wouldn't go out of my way, but the next time I interacted with the boss, I'd say, "Hey! Thanks for the little birthday shout-out" and get on with business at hand.
    – Xavier J
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 23:02
  • 4
    You can achieve much the same result by not replying very quickly.
    – Simd
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 14:44
  • a 6 letter sms or email is a waste of bandwidth... don't do it. Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 19:35
  • @MatthewWhited I'm sure the networks can handle it.
    – user45590
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 12:58

"Thank you sir, i really appreciate it!" , by the way Happy Birthday friend.

  • 14
    As with the other answer, "sir" is generally inappropriate in Western working environments. Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 18:28
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    "Sir" is inappropriate in Western environments referring to a lady, then it would be "ma'am". If the organizational culture is formal, then "sir" is great. Otherwise it is overkill.
    – MikeP
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 20:37
  • 5
    Polite formality is not inappropriate.
    – MikeP
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 20:37
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    @MikeP: I think both you and Philip Kendall are overgeneralising. There are many workplaces in the US in which calling bosses sir, madam, etc is expected; and many more in which it would be quite inappropriate.
    – PLL
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 23:34
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    @All, thank you all for the reply. MikeP and Philip kendall, i now know some more about Western working environments, but how did you guys get that out of the giving text that the persons above are from a Western working environment? To be clear, my given answer is just a general view, not related on a specific part of the world.
    – RGhiraw
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 11:56

Thanks Sir and have a nice day.

Keep it formal and real. You can Replace Sir by the name or as per you are used to interacting with your boss. It's just a formality which the boss is completing by wishing you a birthday so according to me this message is good enough to do the job.

  • 3
    you get down voted while this would have been a good answer in many regions in Asia. OP didn't even mention the country where he lives. Just stupid blind downvoting...
    – Mehdi
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 11:55
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    @Mehdi: Similarly, if this answer is location-specific (it is) then it should state that. Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 12:14
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    To people downvoting, just replace sir with the name of the person. Stop being stupid!
    – Hobbes
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 16:28
  • @Hobbes The asker is already struggling with the tone required for their response. Accuracy seems important here.
    – Gusdor
    Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 10:11
  • @BoundaryImposition So are the other answers which are US/West specific. Why doesn't that rule apply to them?
    – Masked Man
    Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 18:31

As you wrote, not being friends with the boss, I suggest to keep it formal, and I do not encourage informal response with the currently available question details. Putting a smiley in the text is clearly informal. Without smiley, it works as formal; mind the punctuation at the end, if you wish.

Many scenarios are possible to make up if an overthinking begins. Anyway, an uncalled, unexpected birthday greetings is odd, if there is no tradition for it at your workplace/workgroup. If you wish to keep things professional and formal, there is nothing bad to let him know if you consider the act unwelcome. It is up to you (as you know more details of the situation).


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