Good and Bad Excuses for Being Late to Work

Good and Bad Excuses for Being Late to Work

We've all been late to work. It happens to everyone at some point. Usually, it's OK. People understand. But every once in a while, your boss will want an explanation, which may leave you scrambling for good excuses to call off work last minute.

Most of the time when people are late, the excuses are pretty common:

  1. I overslept.
  2. I had to get the children to school first (among many other family emergency excuses).
  3. My cat has gone missing.
  4. I got stuck in traffic.
  5. The bus broke down.

No doubt your boss has heard a lot of excuses over the years, but your reputation at work can dictate whether you get the benefit of the doubt when offering up a unique explanation. Whether your boss believes you or not depends on your general work ethic and past experience.

But sometimes the story gets so strange it can make it harder to believe. Here are some of the stranger excuses for being late to work that employees have used in the past, according to Monster insiders:

  1. I’m running late because I spent the night in urgent care after being beaten up and stabbed. 
  2. I’ll be late because I fell asleep on the train home and missed my stop, only to wake up three hours further down the track and not able to get back the same evening. This employee had been very drunk the night before, our source says. And the employee used that excuse not once, but twice.
  3. I tried to cut my own hair and made a horrible mess of it, so I had to find a salon that was open and could fit me in to fix it.
  4. My children locked me out of the house and wouldn’t let me in. I had to call a locksmith and get him to open the door, so I could retrieve the keys, get the children to school, and then come to work.
  5. I was late because there was police activity and they made us stay in the house so I couldn't leave. (This one came from a CFO. Everyone at the company believed her but she forgot that there are so many apps about traffic and incidents and some employees decided to verify her story. Surprise: There was no police activity anywhere near her, but rather inspired creativity on her part.)

Is Honesty the Best Policy?

Everybody’s human and makes mistakes, so rather than inventing good excuses to call off work last minute, own up to your goof and move on. If you're late, be honest. Did you oversleep or forget to set the alarm? Did your kid make you run late? Integrity is key. When you lie, you break that trust and that will upset an employer even more.

It’s important to apologize as well. Acknowledge that you understand it sets a bad example and impacts the team, and that you are taking steps to address the situation. This is better than spewing out nonsense excuses. Let your manager know that you understand the implications and have a strategy to fix the issue. Besides, chronic lateness can end up hurting you in the long run.

Do the Reasons for Being Late Even Matter?

We at Monster have heard a lot of excuses why people are late to work, from menstrual cramps and carpool problems to car trouble and family emergency excuses. To some bosses, the reasons you're late for work are not important because sometimes completely legitimate reasons are also private, personal matters. And these reasons may cause an employee to lie so as not to share these intimate details.

Ask yourself if your boss maybe rather not know the reason and instead focus on whether your lateness is a chronic issue. 

Wait, Why Are You Late to Work—Really?

Maybe the real reason you're looking for good excuses to call off work last minute is because you don't like your job. It may be time to find a new job rather than a new excuse for your tardiness. Could you use help getting started? Make a free profile on Monster, and we can help you find a job you enjoy. Frankly, you've got no excuse not to.