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Locked in the Car Trunk? CareerBuilder’s Most Outrageous Excuses for Being Late to Work

It’s 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning. As you’re drinking your double espresso and fumbling through a slew of new e-mails, your phone rings.

“Hello?”

“Hi, boss. It’s Steve.”

“Steve, your voice sounds really muffled. Everything okay?”

“Um, not really. You see, I’m locked in my car trunk. That’s right – I am calling you from the inside of my car trunk. I’m not going to be able to make it into work until I get out of here.”

Hmm.  You’ve never got that phone call from an employee? Well, chances are you’ve heard a similarly outlandish excuse at some point. Workers have a slew of crazy excuses for being late to work, and “I got locked in my car trunk by my son” tops our most recent survey of over 8,000 workers. According to the survey, 20 percent of workers arrive late to work at least once a week, up from 15 percent in last year’s survey. One in ten (12 percent) said they are late at least twice a week.

The most popular “standard” reasons for running late are due to traffic (33 percent); lack of sleep (24 percent); and getting the kids ready for school or day care (10 percent). Public transportation woes, wardrobe issues (not of the Janet Jackson-malfunction kind), and dealing with pets are also also common reasons.

But mixed in with those “common” reasons are those that are, well, a bit more odd.

The most outrageous reasons for being late to work:

You’re sleeping on the couch tonight
“My husband thinks it’s funny to hide my car keys before he goes to work.”
Dumpster drama
“I was attacked by a raccoon and had to stop by the hospital to make sure it wasn’t rabid.”
Lefty

“My left turn signal was out so I had to make all right turns to get to work.”

Those meddlesome gurneys
“A gurney fell out of an ambulance and delayed traffic.”
Just being considerate
“I feel like I’m in everyone’s way if I show up on time.”
Preventing frostbite and snakebite
“My heat was shut off so I had to stay home to keep my snake warm.”
Billy Madison?
“My father didn’t wake me up.”
Six-more-weeks-of-winter aggression
“A groundhog bit my bike tire and made it flat.”
Walking into spiderwebs
“I walked into a spider web on the way out the door and couldn’t find the spider, so I had to go inside and shower again.”
Parent trap
“I got locked in my trunk by my son.”
Island paradise
“My driveway washed away in the rain last night.”
B47 obsession
“I had to go to bingo.”

Read the full press release here.

Author’s note: In line with 2008′s most unusual excuses for missing work, animals seem to be a common theme.

Employees, Be Honest

“While some employers tend to be more lenient with worker punctuality, 30 percent say they have terminated an employee for being late,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources for CareerBuilder.com. “Workers need to understand their company’s policies on tardiness and if they are late, make sure they openly communicate with their managers. Employers have heard every excuse in the book, so honesty is the best policy.”

I would add that on the flip side, employers must be open and communicative about policies and preferences for work tardiness. Let your employees know what your expectations are in the case that they are running late to work. Open lines of communication will garner respect from your employees — and less headaches for you. Chances are, if you trust and respect your employees, they will return the favor.

What are the best (or most unbelievable) excuses you’ve heard from your employees — or that you’ve used yourself?

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.
23 comments
Bryan
Bryan

I will be a few days late, I ended up in the wrong country.

Bryan
Bryan

I will be a few days late, I ended up in the wrong country.

arachnid
arachnid

I wasn't going to work, but I was late for a family function. Why? I walked into a huge spider web. I was too busy making sure I didn't drop my pies, that I had my keys, purse, that my husband had what he was suppose to, etc. I was looking back at him and when I turned back to face forward I walked straight into it. We live in the country and we have HUGE spiders. INCHES ACROSS, not the little house spiders most people are use to. I freaked out, dropped everything, ran back into the house. I was ripping my clothes off as I went. Yes, I took a shower. No one cared that I was late but they did care that they had to eat store bought pies. They also spent the rest of the day laughing about it because my husband had to give them a "play by play". Lesson learned...make my husband go out the door first.

arachnid
arachnid

I wasn't going to work, but I was late for a family function. Why? I walked into a huge spider web. I was too busy making sure I didn't drop my pies, that I had my keys, purse, that my husband had what he was suppose to, etc. I was looking back at him and when I turned back to face forward I walked straight into it. We live in the country and we have HUGE spiders. INCHES ACROSS, not the little house spiders most people are use to. I freaked out, dropped everything, ran back into the house. I was ripping my clothes off as I went. Yes, I took a shower. No one cared that I was late but they did care that they had to eat store bought pies. They also spent the rest of the day laughing about it because my husband had to give them a "play by play". Lesson learned...make my husband go out the door first.

arachnid
arachnid

I wasn't going to work, but I was late for a family function. Why? I walked into a huge spider web. I was too busy making sure I didn't drop my pies, that I had my keys, purse, that my husband had what he was suppose to, etc. I was looking back at him and when I turned back to face forward I walked straight into it. We live in the country and we have HUGE spiders. INCHES ACROSS, not the little house spiders most people are use to. I freaked out, dropped everything, ran back into the house. I was ripping my clothes off as I went. Yes, I took a shower. No one cared that I was late but they did care that they had to eat store bought pies. They also spent the rest of the day laughing about it because my husband had to give them a "play by play". Lesson learned...make my husband go out the door first.

HR_Renae
HR_Renae

The truth of the matter is, I think flexibility is important when you are dealing with employees' schedules. However, if you have an employee who shows up late every day and doesn't do their work or put forth an effort, I believe there is a problem. The key to this is creating schedules that work though, not just having employees continuously showing up late for work. I have never been an "early bird" myself, and I appreciate the flexibility of being able to come in a little later in the morning so long as I do quality work in the office and because I work better this way, I'm always willing to stay later in the day. Everyone is different, so I believe employers should take that into consideration when making schedules, etc. If the work being done allows for some flexibility, I think talking to the employees about what works for them and under what structure they will be most efficient will bode well for everyone involved. I realize there are some positions that intently require a specific early morning schedule, and that is a situation in which clear communication with employees will hopefully go a long way.

HR_Renae
HR_Renae

The truth of the matter is, I think flexibility is important when you are dealing with employees' schedules. However, if you have an employee who shows up late every day and doesn't do their work or put forth an effort, I believe there is a problem. The key to this is creating schedules that work though, not just having employees continuously showing up late for work. I have never been an "early bird" myself, and I appreciate the flexibility of being able to come in a little later in the morning so long as I do quality work in the office and because I work better this way, I'm always willing to stay later in the day. Everyone is different, so I believe employers should take that into consideration when making schedules, etc. If the work being done allows for some flexibility, I think talking to the employees about what works for them and under what structure they will be most efficient will bode well for everyone involved. I realize there are some positions that intently require a specific early morning schedule, and that is a situation in which clear communication with employees will hopefully go a long way.

Sadistic Manager
Sadistic Manager

Re: the importance of showing up on time... Some industries are sensitive. I can see why my office, for example, needs people to show up on time. We deal with people across the country, and projects are time-sensitive enough that I might need to know exactly when someone's going to show up so I can get status on something.

At the same time, I only enforce the overbearingly strict timekeeping policies because it's a company requirement. As long as people show up around the same general time each day, I don't really care when.

Schedules, for reasons that have yet to be satisfactorily explained to me, aren't published to the staff in my office. So, I've suggested cheating the system to my managers on occasion.

Have a rock star employee who always shows up twenty minutes late on the dot, always gives you eight or more hours a day, and does almost twice as much work as everyone else in the eight hours she's there? Sneak into the timekeeping system and move her start time back thirty minutes. All of a sudden you have a rock star who's early every day.

Keep the pitfalls of this in mind, though; if she transfers out of your department, you'll have to tell her what you did and warn her she might not be so lucky in her new position.

Sadistic Manager
Sadistic Manager

Re: the importance of showing up on time... Some industries are sensitive. I can see why my office, for example, needs people to show up on time. We deal with people across the country, and projects are time-sensitive enough that I might need to know exactly when someone's going to show up so I can get status on something.

At the same time, I only enforce the overbearingly strict timekeeping policies because it's a company requirement. As long as people show up around the same general time each day, I don't really care when.

Schedules, for reasons that have yet to be satisfactorily explained to me, aren't published to the staff in my office. So, I've suggested cheating the system to my managers on occasion.

Have a rock star employee who always shows up twenty minutes late on the dot, always gives you eight or more hours a day, and does almost twice as much work as everyone else in the eight hours she's there? Sneak into the timekeeping system and move her start time back thirty minutes. All of a sudden you have a rock star who's early every day.

Keep the pitfalls of this in mind, though; if she transfers out of your department, you'll have to tell her what you did and warn her she might not be so lucky in her new position.

Sadistic Manager
Sadistic Manager

Re: the importance of showing up on time... Some industries are sensitive. I can see why my office, for example, needs people to show up on time. We deal with people across the country, and projects are time-sensitive enough that I might need to know exactly when someone's going to show up so I can get status on something. At the same time, I only enforce the overbearingly strict timekeeping policies because it's a company requirement. As long as people show up around the same general time each day, I don't really care when. Schedules, for reasons that have yet to be satisfactorily explained to me, aren't published to the staff in my office. So, I've suggested cheating the system to my managers on occasion. Have a rock star employee who always shows up twenty minutes late on the dot, always gives you eight or more hours a day, and does almost twice as much work as everyone else in the eight hours she's there? Sneak into the timekeeping system and move her start time back thirty minutes. All of a sudden you have a rock star who's early every day. Keep the pitfalls of this in mind, though; if she transfers out of your department, you'll have to tell her what you did and warn her she might not be so lucky in her new position.

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Thanks for the responses, all!

Chris, to address your question, I think you bring up a good point. But while I may agree that different people work well in different structures/time requirements/office settings, the reality is that many companies do in fact care, and many have pretty strict standards. I also think that having an open and honest work relationship may prevent some situations like this from occurring.

I would love to hear from others on this, though -- why *does* it matter? With more employers allowing flexible schedules, is being "on time" by normal standards a trend that's diminishing? Are employers doing themselves a disservice by not being flexible, or not? Thoughts?

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Thanks for the responses, all!

Chris, to address your question, I think you bring up a good point. But while I may agree that different people work well in different structures/time requirements/office settings, the reality is that many companies do in fact care, and many have pretty strict standards. I also think that having an open and honest work relationship may prevent some situations like this from occurring.

I would love to hear from others on this, though -- why *does* it matter? With more employers allowing flexible schedules, is being "on time" by normal standards a trend that's diminishing? Are employers doing themselves a disservice by not being flexible, or not? Thoughts?

Amy Chulik
Amy Chulik

Thanks for the responses, all! Chris, to address your question, I think you bring up a good point. But while I may agree that different people work well in different structures/time requirements/office settings, the reality is that many companies do in fact care, and many have pretty strict standards. I also think that having an open and honest work relationship may prevent some situations like this from occurring. I would love to hear from others on this, though -- why *does* it matter? With more employers allowing flexible schedules, is being "on time" by normal standards a trend that's diminishing? Are employers doing themselves a disservice by not being flexible, or not? Thoughts?

HR Good_Witch
HR Good_Witch

What a great selection of disasters and dilemmas. My fave above: "I'm in the way if I show up on time." Whoa - dude.... I wouldn't advertise to your boss that you are just in the way when you actually show up! Arrangements can be made to get you out of the way-permanently!

HR Good_Witch
HR Good_Witch

What a great selection of disasters and dilemmas. My fave above: "I'm in the way if I show up on time." Whoa - dude.... I wouldn't advertise to your boss that you are just in the way when you actually show up! Arrangements can be made to get you out of the way-permanently!

HR Good_Witch
HR Good_Witch

What a great selection of disasters and dilemmas. My fave above: "I'm in the way if I show up on time." Whoa - dude.... I wouldn't advertise to your boss that you are just in the way when you actually show up! Arrangements can be made to get you out of the way-permanently!

Sadistic Manager
Sadistic Manager

... presented with the same line today, I'd probably have the same response.

No idea what happened there...

Sadistic Manager
Sadistic Manager

... presented with the same line today, I'd probably have the same response. No idea what happened there...

Sadistic Manager
Sadistic Manager

I have to admit I laughed at some of these.

Wildest one I've gotten? "I couldn't come back after lunch yesterday because I had to be in court for moral support for my daughter, because she was testifying against the people who kidnapped her and sold her into slavery."

When asked why she didn't call: "They don't let you use cell phones in court."

I was a brand new manager at the time, and didn't have the tact and verbal control I do now, so my response was "... and you really expect me to buy that?" Although truthfully, if I were

Sadistic Manager
Sadistic Manager

I have to admit I laughed at some of these.

Wildest one I've gotten? "I couldn't come back after lunch yesterday because I had to be in court for moral support for my daughter, because she was testifying against the people who kidnapped her and sold her into slavery."

When asked why she didn't call: "They don't let you use cell phones in court."

I was a brand new manager at the time, and didn't have the tact and verbal control I do now, so my response was "... and you really expect me to buy that?" Although truthfully, if I were

Sadistic Manager
Sadistic Manager

I have to admit I laughed at some of these. Wildest one I've gotten? "I couldn't come back after lunch yesterday because I had to be in court for moral support for my daughter, because she was testifying against the people who kidnapped her and sold her into slavery." When asked why she didn't call: "They don't let you use cell phones in court." I was a brand new manager at the time, and didn't have the tact and verbal control I do now, so my response was "... and you really expect me to buy that?" Although truthfully, if I were

Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR
Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR

Employees who are late for work... honestly, do people really give a shit? I mean, if you're getting your work done, and you're doing it well, who cares?

If you work retail sales or you're a doctor, yes, schedules matter. But if you're a creative designer or accountant or whatever, how does it impact your ability to do the job?

Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR
Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR

Employees who are late for work... honestly, do people really give a shit? I mean, if you're getting your work done, and you're doing it well, who cares? If you work retail sales or you're a doctor, yes, schedules matter. But if you're a creative designer or accountant or whatever, how does it impact your ability to do the job?

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