How do you act when you're late for work? Do you quietly slink over to your desk, trying to avoid your boss's line of sight, or do you come in with excuses blasting from both barrels, whether they're as mundane as your kids waking up sick or as oddly specific as your hamster falling into the laundry chute? A recent CareerBuilder survey found that 23 percent of employees admit to being tardy at least once a month (another 15 percent say they show up late once a week), frequently citing things like traffic and weather. But some employees took their creativity a step further, and doled out excuses that were perhaps too reliant on the notion that truth is often stranger than fiction.
1. Employee's cat got stuck in the toilet.
2. Employee woke up on the front lawn of a house two blocks away from his home.
3. Employee couldn't eat breakfast--he ran out of milk for cereal and had to buy some before getting ready for work.
4. Employee was late because he fell asleep in the car when he got to work.
5. Employee accidentally put superglue in her eye instead of contact lens solution, and had to go to the emergency room.
6. Employee thought Halloween was a work holiday.
7. Employee said a hole in the roof caused rain to fall on the alarm clock and it didn't go off.
8. Employee was watching something on TV and really wanted to see the end.
9. Employee forgot that the company changed locations.
10. Employee got a hairbrush stuck in her hair.
11. Employee claimed a zebra was running down the highway and held up traffic (this turned out to be true).
12. Employee was scared by a nightmare.
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Perhaps it's no surprise that many employees are eager to smooth things over with an excuse -- however bizarre. One in three employers have fired someone for tardiness, while 48 percent say they expect employees to be on time every day. Attendance policies can be a topic of contention; Whole Foods was recently criticized for allegedly firing a single mother who couldn't find someone to care for her son when schools closed.
Still, policies vary from one employer to the next. Thirty-four percent say they allow their employees to be late once in a while, as long as their tardiness doesn't become a recurring issue. And some employers take more of a hands-off approach, with 18 percent saying they don't care if employees show up late as long as their work doesn't suffer (and the work shows up on time).
"Most employers understand that occasionally things pop up and cause employees to be behind schedule. The trouble comes when tardiness becomes a habit," says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder's vice president of Human Resources. Haefner advises frequently late employees to consider setting up alerts about public transportation, or checking the weather forecast for their commute.
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With 39 percent of tardy employees blaming bad traffic conditions (and another 7 percent blaming the weather), this might not be such a terrible idea. Lack of sleep was also a popular reason for lateness (19 percent), and 8 percent cited delays caused by public transportation. Finally, 6 percent said their lateness resulted from dropping their kids off at school or daycare.
Whatever the case, don't tell your boss you're late because you stopped to deliver a stranger's baby on the side of the highway. That only works if you're an obstetrician.