The alarm went off this morning — eight times. You heard it but were too involved in your dream, in which you were fighting with Chewbacca over the last Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream pint at the grocery store until Charlie Sheen somehow showed up and told you both to just calm down and drink some chocolate milk, for it to make any impact.
Wait, was I the only one who dreamt that?
Regardless, you’ve likely been late to work at least once — due to oversleeping, your alarm not going off, being kept awake all night by your upstairs neighbor’s snoring (again, just me?), traffic jams, or a number of other “standard” reasons. And you might have an understandable boss, who knows that you’re a great and responsible worker, but that these things sometimes happen.
The late debate
Chances are, you took the high road and fessed up with the real reason you were running late. And after all, you wouldn’t be alone in your mishap: A new CareerBuilder survey on worker lateness shows that 15 percent of workers are late to work at least once a week (though that’s down from 16 percent in 2009 and 20 percent in 2008). It appears the recession has been a likely cause of the downward trend in lateness — though it hasn’t made it disappear altogether. And for the most part, workers shared a variety of reasons for being tardy similar to the ones I mentioned above: Thirty percent said they were delayed by traffic, and 19 percent said they were late because of a lack of sleep. Nine percent blamed bad weather for their tardiness, while 8 percent said there was a delay in getting their kids to daycare or school. Other common reasons included public transportation, wardrobe issues or dealing with pets.
Then again, you might not take that high road I mentioned earlier — and out of fear of getting in trouble or your boss losing respect for you, you might have thought that coming up with an outlandish excuse was a much a better idea (Spoiler alert: It’s definitely not).
Some of the workers in our latest survey, on that fateful morning in which they were late for work, dove deeply into the depths of their souls, scanning their memories for snippets of the scariest thrillers they’d ever seen (ahem, Nicolas Cage in “Wicker Man”) or the sappiest dramas to help them weave a tall, tall tale — either that or they have much more exciting lives than I (also completely possible).
Without further ado, here are the most bizarre excuses for being late:
- Read between the (facial) lines | “My Botox appointment took longer than I expected.”
- Feline fury | “My cat attacked me.”
- The Keanu Reeves Defense | “I was delayed due to public transportation (employee produced a note signed by “The Bus Driver”).
- No breakfast in bed that morning | “I didn’t get any sleep because my boyfriend’s wife threw me out of the house.
- Channeling Nicolas Cage | “My car was inhabited by a hive of bees and I couldn’t use the car for two hours until bees left.”
- D’oh Nuts | “I knew I was already going to be late, so I figured I’d go ahead and stop to get donuts for everyone.”
- “Ready to pull a Britney | “My hair was hurting my head.”
- Karma Policing | “My Karma is not in sync today.”
- It’s not me, it’s you | “I’m not late — the company clock is wrong.”
While these excuses stand out, they’re far from the norm. Bosses also usually understand that we’re all human and mistakes happen; as long as the tardiness doesn’t become a pattern, all is forgiven. A word of caution, though — 32 percent of employers surveyed said they have terminated an employee for being late. Fair or not, it happens — and as an employee or someone currently seeking a job, keep in mind the consequences of your actions. As Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder, says:
“Whether it is a result of fear associated with the economy or just a shift in attitude, workers over the last few years are doing a better job of managing their schedules and getting into the office at the designated time. While workers will sometimes be late due to circumstances out of their control, they need to be aware of their companies’ tardiness policies. Regardless of the reason, workers who are running late should always be honest with their managers.”
Tips to a more timely road ahead
- Read up on your employee handbook (if you have one) to better understand what rules are already laid out for you by company policy. If you don’t have one or are unsure about your company’s attendance policy, reach out to HR.
- Pull your boss aside and ask what his or her personal preferences are for your arrival and departure at work. Does your boss tend to come in late and stay late, or does he or she have a fresh pot of coffee brewing before anyone arrives and expect everyone to get into work on the dot? Find out — by having clear expectations ahead of time and knowing each other’s tendencies, you’ll understand each other better and create clear expectations of the work relationship.
- If you’re comfortable talking frankly to your boss, let him or her know your habits. Do you need to walk your dog in the morning and once at lunch, but are willing to stay later if necessary to make up for it? Or do you have a screaming baby keeping you up at night? You may be surprised to find that by opening up the lines of communication and being honest with your boss about your tardiness issues, he or she will work with you to come up with a great solution for both of you.
And then, you can work harder on winning that communication battle with your alarm clock.
What are the most outrageous late-to-work excuses you’ve heard or used yourself? How did things turn out?