The Most Outrageous Excuses for Being Late to Work

There are 1,001 reasons why people are late to work.

Photo by Cindy Perman for

Just bring up the topic of ridiculous reasons to be late and it is sure to stir up an interesting discussion.

A colleague recalled a former employee once called in because it was too hot.

Another recalled an employee at their previous job who was nearly fired for “calling in drunk.”

Another recalled a local TV producer from her former job who once canceled a 6pm newscast because “there was too much news — I wanted to wait until 11.”

And, perhaps the piece de resistance — one colleague recalled a friend who told his coffee-shop boss that he couldn’t come to work because he’d been shot in the buttocks with a pellet gun. (True story!) And just when you thought that was the most incredulous part of the story, his boss replied: “Hey man, I've been shot in the HEAD with REAL BULLETS and I still came to work."

I know, that makes your excuse about having a little head cold sound lame, right?

CareerBuilder has compiled their list of the most popular excuses — and the most outrageous – for why people are late to work.

Among the most popular were: Getting the kids to school or daycare (8 percent); bad weather (11 percent) and lack of sleep (18 percent).

But the No. 1 most popular reason is (drumroll, please ………………)

Traffic! Thirty-one percent of the workers surveyed said they were most often late to work because of traffic.

No one admitted to the most outrageous excuses, but hiring managers dished out some of the doozies they’ve heard, where employees blamed everyone from the their roommate to the governor, the cat, the TV and a fox. Here’s the top 10 list of the most outrageous excuses:

1. Employee’s cat had the hiccups.

2. Employee thought she had won the lottery (she didn’t).

3. Employee got distracted watching the “Today Show.”

4. Employee’s angry roommate cut the cord to his phone charger, so it didn’t charge and his alarm didn’t go off.

5. Employee believed his commute time should count toward his work hours.

6. Employee claimed a fox stole her car keys.

7. Employee’s leg was trapped between the subway car and the platform (turned out to be true).

8. Employee said he wasn’t late because he had no intention of getting to work before 9:00 a.m. (his start time was 8:00 a.m.)

9. Employee was late because of a job interview with another firm.

10. Employee had to take a personal call from the state governor (turned out to be true).

OK, so now you can no longer use anything on that list — the old “cat had the hiccups” routine is off the table. And no “I was reading this great blog on being late” either.

Being late causes all kinds of unnecessary stress and drama. We’ve seen the real drama life can bring — everything from job loss to the financial crisis. So let’s try to cut the unnecessary drama for 2012 and start being on time.

Remember: Everyone remembers the cat hiccups guy or that guy that called in drunk, but show of hands, please: who here would hire that guy again?


In her book, “Time Management in an Instant,” Karen Leland recommends these three tips for getting your act together:

• Begin with the end in mind. Work backwards from the time you need to arrive to calculate exactly what time you should leave. Account for all kinds of things such as getting dressed, ironing — and yes, even, cat hiccups and hitting your thumb with a hammer.

• Consider the worst-case scenario. Imagine the president is in town, it’s snowing and a truck full of chickens overturned on the highway.

• Don’t underestimate the little things. You have to account for the time it takes to gather your keys (or find them!) and your wallet, put your shoes on, etc. Don’t forget about the nosey neighbor that wants to say hello or the spit-up on the rug that you’ll have to clean up.

You know what? You should leave now. You know — just in case!

Don't try this at home (or on the road):

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What is the most outrageous excuse you've heard — or given? Email or drop a line in the comment box below.

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