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“A Cow Just Broke Into My House!” 2010′s Most Unusual Excuses for Missing Work

Curious cowFeel like something’s been, well, different at the office lately? That things seem a bit emptier at the workplace? A bit quieter? Well, you’re not crazy — you’re just observant. Turns out many employees are calling off of work to crawl back under the covers and hide from the recession, build a delicious burger cake, or explain a cow break-in to the cops.

Yes, I said cow break-in. CareerBuilder has just released its 2010 survey of the most unusual excuses for missing work, and if you thought 2009′s most unusual excuses lived up to their name, you’re in luck — 2010′s list is just as full of wacky, creative, and head-shaking employee excuses.

Sick… or Sick of the Recession?

CareerBuilder 2010 survey on absenteeism, which included more than 3,100 workers and more than 2,400 employers, reveals that 29 percent of workers (a slight increase from 28 percent last year) have pulled a Ferris Bueller and played hooky from the office at least once this year, calling in sick when they were actually well.

But why? While the excuses can be off-the-wall, the reasons behind them might  not be so out there. Last year, I mentioned that, although some workers call off of work every year, 2009′s high rate of absences due to fake excuses were for the first time likely a reflection of recession-induced stress and burnout. That recession-related stress could be seeping into 2010, as 27 percent of employers in this year’s survey think they are seeing an increase in bogus sick excuses from employees due to continued stress and burnout caused by the weak economy.

The majority of employees surveyed say they call in sick with fake excuses because they “just don’t feel like going to work,” followed by “needing to relax” and “catching up on sleep.” Other reasons included doctor’s appointments, needing to run personal errands, and plans with family and friends. In addition to recession burnout, the workplace/life balance is shifting more and more, and as many employees are working while off the clock, they’re also feeling a need to get more personal things done while on the clock.

2010′s Most Unusual Excuses for Missing Work

Time to moooove:
“A cow broke into my house and I have to wait for the insurance man.”

Why did the chicken cross the road?
“A chicken attacked my mom.

PG version of “American Pie”:
“My finger is stuck in a bowling ball.”

Bad hair day:
“My hair transplant has gone bad.”

Kids can be so mean?
“My girlfriend threw a Sit ‘n Spin through my living room window.”

Just kickin’ it:
“My foot is caught in the garbage disposal.”

Not-so clever comeback:
“I’m not feeling too clever today.”

Thanksgiving faux pas:
“I burned my mouth on a pumpkin pie.

Eh?
“I was in a boat on Lake Erie and ran out of gas and the coast guard towed me to the Canadian side.”

Just a law-abiding citizen:
“I have to mow the lawn to avoid a lawsuit from the home owner’s association.”

 

It’s a Matter of Trust…

While the majority of employers said they believe their workers when they say they’re feeling under the weather, 29 percent admitted they’ve checked up on an employee who called in sick, and 16 percent said they have gone so far as to fire a worker for missing work without a proven excuse.

  • Of the employers who checked up on an employee, 70 percent said they required the employee to show them a doctor’s note.
  • While half called the employee at home, 18 percent had another worker call the employee (shady!) and 15 percent drove by the employee’s house or apartment (am I the only one who just had flashbacks of The Office‘s Michael checking up on Oscar?).

… And It Comes Down to Communication

“Six-in-ten employers we surveyed said they let their team members use sick days for mental health days,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “If you need to take some time away from the office, the best way not to cause yourself more stress is to be open and honest with your manager.”

On the flip side, employers must also be open and communicative about policies and preferences for work absence. Let your employees know what your expectations are, and keep in mind that by being open-minded with your employees, they’re more likely to return the favor.

The recession has been hard on everyone, not least of all the employees who have weathered the ups and downs with your business. Sick or not, taking a mental health day to rest, go on a bike ride, get a massage, or spend time with family may be just what the doctor ordered for  them — and the best thing for your business. Remember that trust and respect of your employees will generally equate to trust and respect back from them — and less headaches for you.

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

Amy McDonnell

About Amy McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the creative services 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.
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