Excuses for Missing Work:
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

At some point, we’ve all had to miss work for one reason or another. And while it’s less of an issue if your job permits a certain degree of flexibility, things get a lot more complicated when you work full time with a strictly defined schedule. Your manager will want to know the reason why you won’t be showing up to work, but what are you going to tell them?

Make no mistake, we’re not encouraging you to lie here. The best excuses are always the genuine ones. And in this post, we’re going to explore some of the more sensible excuses you could use to get out of work, as well as take a look at the ones that are best avoided altogether.

The Good

  1. Health issues. Few people would argue that showing up to work with a bad case of cold is not a good idea. And if you’re struggling with mental health problems like anxiety or depression, being a functioning employee can sometimes be downright impossible. There’s no need to go into too much detail with your employer. Just be honest and make sure they understand that you are simply in no condition to do any work. Most importantly however, do not self-medicate and seek professional help.
  2. Family emergencies. Work is important, but family always comes first. And if your employer is any good they should understand this fact better than anyone. So if you do have a sick child or a loved one you need to look after, or if a relative passes away it is absolutely normal to expect to be let off work. This is a pretty serious matter, so lying about it is something we definitely would not recommend.
  3. Household emergencies. You can’t predict every single thing, and sometimes random issues that can prevent you from getting to work just happen. Whether it’s a power outage, a burst water pipe or an upstairs neighbor flooding your newly renovated bathroom, your employer should understand.
  4. Commute issues. Getting to work is another area where things outside of your control can go suddenly wrong. You can get a flat tire or run into heavy traffic, your bus can break down in the middle of the route, or a train can run late. So calling to let your boss know that you’ll be late due to transportation issues should not be the end of the world.
  5. Civic duty. If you get summoned for jury duty, or just happen to witness a crime on your way to work and have to talk to the police, it’s natural to assume that you’ll either won’t be able to come in to work at all, or will have to be late. This is pretty easy to fact check though, so think twice before using this excuse when you simply don’t feel like going to work.
  6. Nature. If there’s one thing that we have absolutely no control over, it’s nature. You may have a meeting with your biggest client ever lined up, but if there’s a record-breaking snowfall raging on outside or a rainfall so heavy that roads are getting closed, it’s safe to say that it can probably wait.

While all of the above excuses are generally considered normal, it’s best not to overdo it and use them sparingly. Calling in sick once every few months is one thing. But when you have a busted boiler, a sick grandma, and a traffic accident all within a single week, even the most sympathetic manager will start to get a little suspicious.

In case you do get seriously unlucky, it would be a good idea to always have a backup plan – work from home, or ask your friends or family for help, so you don’t have to miss work unless it’s absolutely necessary.

The Bad

  1. Being “sick”. Sure it can sting to miss your favorite band’s only reunion performance or the premier showing of the movie you’ve been looking forward to all year. But unless it truly is a once in a lifetime event that you will regret missing for the rest of your days, calling in sick just to attend it is bad form. If you do decide to go for it however, at the very least do your best to resist the temptation to brag about it on social media.
  2. Feeling “tired”. If you find yourself constantly coming in late or feeling compelled to leave work early, being tired is a poor excuse. Mostly because it more than likely points to a larger issue. If you actually don’t feel well-rested, there’s a very real chance you’re not getting enough sleep, or have a poorly balanced diet. On the other hand, if you’re no longer happy with your job and just don’t find it as exciting or fulfilling anymore, instead of doing the unprofessional thing and missing work, consider discussing your concerns with your manager, or even seeking other career opportunities.
  3. Oversleeping. One of the most common excuses in the book for showing up late, which of course doesn’t make it okay. Using it once or twice might get you off the hook, but making a habit out of it is a surefire way to ruin your reputation in the company.

You might get away with one of the above once or twice, but we wouldn’t advise to use them at all unless there’s no other way.

The Ugly

  1. No excuse at all. Unless you’re actively trying to get yourself fired, missing work when you have no reason at all is not the smartest thing to do.
  2. The “grow the hell up” AKA “are you serious?” excuses, including but not limited to:
    • Having a bad hangover
    • Having sore feet
    • Being in a bad mood
    • Losing your phone
    • Not having any clean or “good” clothes to wear
    • Leaving your wallet at home
    • “Looking like a mess”
    • Forgetting that the business had moved and travelling to the wrong location
    • Thinking Halloween is a public holiday
    • Bad weather

Needless to say, these are all terrible excuses which you should’d use and that 99,9% won’t work with your employer.

Summing up

Life happens and sometimes we all need to get out of work. Before you decide to make an excuse, it’s important to keep in mind a few basic rules: let your employers know asap, tell the truth, but don’t overshare, and above all use the excuses sparingly. Bosses are people too, and you’d be surprised how understanding they can be if you are honest and respectful with them.

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