The 20 worst excuses for coming in late

Human Resources Management Business man looking at his watch

32% of managers said they have fired people for being late, usually chronically late employees. In a recent survey, 10-20% of employees in the U.S. and Canada stated they are late at least one day a week.

If you live in a large city you are often at the mercy of public transit and traffic in determining whether you will be on time for a job interview or for work. If you live anywhere else you really just need to leave on time with a bit of a buffer for the unforeseen.

Excuses for being late, not showing up and not calling to alert your team are getting harder to pull off as almost everyone has a cell phone attached to them at all times. Maybe if you’re stuck underground in the subway in Montreal or Toronto, you have an excuse for not calling.

I’ve been in the career counseling business for a long time – and over the years, people I’ve worked with have shared a litany of stories their staff have used to explain tardiness. These range from the simply absurd to the unnecessarily complicated.

Here are just some pretty lame, but true, excuses people have used for being late to work:

  • Employee claimed a bear stopped his car, broke his window, and tried to grab him. (This wasn’t in Toronto.)
  • Employee claimed a prostitute stole his car keys. (This could have been in Toronto.)
  • Employee claimed he couldn’t find his clothes. (Probably in the dark in the NWT in winter.)
  • You mean the commute doesn’t count as being at work?
  • Employee claimed his dog ate his Blackberry. (And was he waiting for it to ‘resurface’?)
  • Employee claimed he ran over himself with the company truck.
  • Employee claimed he was playing a video game and didn’t want to break up the group he was playing with.
  • Employee claimed he forgot it was a workday.
  • Employee claimed his car was inhabited by a hive of bees and he couldn’t use the car for two hours until the bees left.
  • Employee claimed her cat attacked her.
  • Employee claimed there was a delay with public transportation and produced a note signed by “The Bus Driver.” (This actually was in Toronto.)
  • Employee claimed that her hair just wouldn’t dry.
  • Employee claimed his Botox appointment took longer than he expected.
  • Employee claimed she thought her boyfriend was going to propose, so she wanted to give him time to work up the nerve. (He didn’t. They broke up shortly after.)
  • “In my culture, it is only 9:00 right now.”
  • Employee claimed he knew he was already going to be late, so he figured he would go ahead and stop to get donuts for everyone. (A thoughtful chap wherever he lives who should come and work for me.)
  • “I had a job interview.”
  • Employee claimed that her karma was not in sync that day. (Vancouver Island for sure.)
  • Employee claimed he had in fact been there all along and merely ducked out for some air. (After powering down his work station and taking his coat and bag with him.)
  • Employee claimed she wasn’t in fact late; the company clock was wrong.


The message here is that there are times when you are going to be late, no doubt about it. Instead of setting yourself up to fail, record your appointment time or work arrival time for 20- 30 minutes earlier than it really is and arrive stress free with time to eat the late guy’s donuts!

Oh, and while these are extreme examples, what are the five most frequently used excuses for being late?

  • Traffic
  • Lack of sleep
  • Alarm, power malfunctions
  • Bad weather
  • Getting the kids off to school


Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist
& Corporate Trainer

Author of Networking How to
Build Relationships That Count
, How to Get a Job and Keep

Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind Group