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Bees, Botox and More: The Strangest Late-to-Work Excuses

Employee running to get to workHow many alarm clocks would it take to demonstrate the number of times your employees have been late to work — or that you’ve been late yourself? Is it commonplace — or out of place — at your workplace?

A new CareerBuilder survey on worker lateness shows that 15 percent of workers are late to work at least once a week, though that number is 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.

For the most part, surveyed workers shared a variety of “standard” reasons for being tardy:

  • Thirty percent said they were delayed by traffic.
  • Nineteen percent said they were late because of a lack of sleep.
  • Nine percent blamed bad weather for their tardiness.
  • Eight 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.

Other workers, however, offered more creative excuses for being late to work — here are the best of the best (er, worst of the worst?):

  • 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.”

What’s your attendance style?

Although the excuses above are “outrageous,” that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not true. Either way, 1) tardiness issues appear to be on a downswing, and 2) most bosses understand that life sometimes gets in the way of work — though 32 percent of employers surveyed said they have terminated an employee for being late. Are you one of those bosses?

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.”

Communication counts

I would also turn that around and stress that as a boss, you should 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 mean more respect from your employees — and fewer headaches for you. And chances are, if you trust and respect your employees, they will return the favor.
  • Make sure employee handbooks and guidelines are readily available to employees — and offer to answer any uncertainties or get employees in touch with the person who is able to answer their questions if you can’t.
  • Give your employees the benefit of the doubt – they may be stuck with an ornery puppy, exhausted from being up all night with a screaming child, or going through a rough personal time. While these reasons don’t mean you need to give them free reign to do whatever they want, listening to your employees and trying to compromise a plan that will better fit their lifestyle while still satisfying your business requirements is a win-win in the long run: Better work/life balance = happier employees = better business.

What are the most unbelievable late-to-work excuses you’ve heard from your employees — or that you’ve used yourself? Do you think lateness really matters, as long as employees get the work done, and done well?


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.

Corporate America does not have to wake up. YOU need to wake up and realize that being late to work is unprofessional, disrepectful, and just plain stupid. Why in the world would you be late to work when your schedule says to be there at a certain time? Let me guess its the lame excuse that you were up late or your not a morning person. LAME LAME LAME. You are adults not children, save the excuses for the 8 year olds who can't turn in there homework on time. If your boss tells you to be there at 9 o'clock sharp than you should be there at 9 o'clock sharp. Not 9:02 or should be there at 9:00. You may think that you can make up for being late by staying later but guess what? YOUR BOSS WANTS YOU THERE ON TIME!! You may not be needed after your scheduled hours. These days the "ADULTS" in this world are more like kids. They think they can be late to work and not have any punishments. Well guess what world, if you want to get yourself fired, be my guest and get to work late because there are a select few who are willing to be to work on time and they dont have 8 year old excuses as to why they are late. So a summary of it all: Dont use some lame 8 year old excuse as to why you are late to work, be an adult and get to work on time, you are no better than your kids if you use an excuse. America's work force needs to grow up and take responsibility.


  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lewis, Job Coach, CareerBuilder, SkillStorm, glolog, By Monday and others. By Monday said: RT @interviewcoach: #Career Bees, Botox and More: The Strangest Late-to-Work Excuses <—-Funny [...]

  2. [...] A new survey says the recession is making us more punctual when it comes to our jobs: 15 percent of employees said they make a habit of arriving late to work at least once a week, significantly down from 20 percent in 2008. [...]

  3. [...] A new survey from says the recession is making us more punctual when it comes to our jobs: 15 percent of employees said they make a habit of arriving late to work at least once a week, down from 20 percent in 2008. [...]

  4. [...] are the standard reasons for being late to work: traffic was bad (30%), I’m tired (19%, all from the XRT Morning Show), the weather was bad [...]

  5. [...] employees who are frequently late for work?If so, you aren’t alone. A recent survey about reasons why employees are late to work, conducted by, shows that15% of workers are late for work at least once a week. [...]

  6. [...] heard it all — employees getting locked in the car trunk, dogs swallowing cell phones, and Botox appointments taking longer than expected — the results of this year’s CareerBuilder survey on employees’ unusual excuses [...]

  7. [...] heard it all — employees getting locked in the car trunk, dogs swallowing cell phones, and Botox appointments taking longer than expected — the results of this year’s CareerBuilder survey on employees’ unusual excuses [...]

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