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Ten Excuses for Missing Work

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Taking mornings, afternoons, or even entire days off from work is nothing to be ashamed of. Especially because the base labor in many career fields is becoming abstracted, allowing for the possibility of video-conferencing and telecommuting, there is often nothing wrong with working from home, or putting in a few hours after work one day and arriving late the next.


And yet, it is very important to get on the same page with your higher-ups about what you contribute to your company, and what is expected of you. You probably shouldn’t call in sick on the day of your biggest presentation of the year, right? And if you do need to call in to miss something important, you probably shouldn’t cite a killer hangover, or your dog.


The “feeling ill” excuse is starting to become very unpopular in many corporate environments—if only because people are tired of hearing the same darned excuse every time you want to miss a day. So here’s ten excuses—five smart ones, and five not-so-smart ones—to help you save some face, and learn to come up with your own excuses. The feeling ill excuse is a short-term solution that won’t win you any fans at the office—someone else will have to pick up.


Smart Excuses


1. I’ve earned it.
No one can argue with performance. Come in two or three hours early – or stay late – for a week or two. Then negotiate a day off in advance. “Really work when you’re there, so you’ll be able to feel good about taking time off,” says Andrea Nierenberg, president of The Nierenberg Group, a management consulting, and personal marketing practice.


2. I’m visiting with a client.
For this one to work, you’ve got to have a job that requires you to meet and court current and prospective clients. Neil Simpkins, an account executive at Oxford Communications, has used this one successfully. One note of caution: Meet the client; don’t just say you did. Even if it’s for coffee.


3. I have a doctor’s appointment.
This excuse will get you out of work for a half-day or so. Make the appointment first thing in the morning or late in the day, say around 3 p.m. You can leave the office by 2:30 p.m. and get home (hopefully) by 4 p.m. The shortened day will help you recharge, especially if you schedule it on a Friday afternoon.


4. I have cramps.
Before you dismiss this one, think about it: Who can argue? “It’s such an embarrassing topic that nobody will ever challenge it,” says Jennifer Newman, vice president of Lippe Taylor Public Relations. She has used this excuse—and had it used on her—successfully. “It’s one of those things that men honestly have no clue about, and women can sympathize with.” One important point: Don’t use this one if you’re a man. It’ll never work.




5. I’m working from home.
This is an excellent way to give yourself a break if your company allows it. Although you’ll need to do some work, you can generally get away with a shortened day. And you’ll eliminate your commuting time.

Not-So-Smart Excuses


1. There’s a death in the family.
Don’t ever use this excuse if it’s not true. Your employer will lose all trust in you. “I had an employee whose mother died—twice,” says David Wear, a Virginia PR executive. “He also had the misfortune of losing all his grandparents—twelve of them—during a two-year period.”


2. I’m too sleepy.
When she was a manager at IBM, Marilynn Mobley heard it all. This one still makes her laugh: The employee apparently took Tylenol 3 with codeine instead of a vitamin, because the bottles looked alike.


3. I can’t get my car out of the garage.
This is another one that Mobley didn’t buy. An employee said that a power failure was preventing him from opening his power-operated garage door. “I reminded him that there’s a pull chain on it for just such cases,” she says.


4. I can’t find my polling place.
Mary Dale Walters, a communications specialist at CCH Inc., couldn’t believe this one. A former employee needed an entire day to figure out where she had to go to vote in the 1996 presidential election.


5. I have a personal emergency.
This one is so vague that it rarely works. It could mean anything from fatigue to an appointment with your hairdresser, and your boss knows it.


Don’t lie, no matter which excuse you use. “I’m not a believer in playing hooky, because it always comes back to you,” Nierenberg says. “Don’t lie to your boss, your supervisor or your clients. You’re guaranteed they will be the ones you’ll run into while you’re walking down the street in your jeans.”

By Michele Marrinan


This article is reprinted from WomenCo.

Updated September 1, 2008

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