Merge's Blog

Tardiness at work – how often and why?

So I was catching up on some reading the other day and I came across a reference to a U.S.-nationwide survey conducted late last year that asked more than 7,000 employees and 3,000 employers (across a broad cross-section of industry segments and company sizes) about tardiness at work. You can read more about this study here, but here are a couple of the highlights:

  • 16% of workers reported they arrive late to work once a week or more and 27% of workers arrive late to work at least once a month.
  • The top three reasons for getting to work late are traffic (31%), lack of sleep (18%), and bad weather (11%).

My favorite section in the study however was examples of some of the most outrageous excuses employees gave for being tardy. They ranged from:

  • An employee thinking she had won the lottery (she hadn’t) to
  • An employee who believed that his commute time should count towards his work hours to
  • An employee whose leg was trapped between the subway car and platform (it was).

So what are some of the most outrageous excuses you’ve heard (or used :))? Let’s see if we can top this list.



  • I’m sure you will like this one Merge.

    Preamble: I volunteered for the 1996 Edmonton International Airshow. The highlight of the airshow was British Airways Concorde and “Flights to No Where”.Being a member of the volunteer groundcrew I had responsibilities to service 1300 departure.

    Well the Concorde arrived on time and we started servicing the airplane. Best described as a 767 size airplane with DC9 interior, Above wing servicing was very fast, however the fueling company ran into a snag, it would take over 1 hour to refuel the aircraft. At departure time the Concorde fuel tanks were still only half full.

    With Concorde pushed back and going for the runway, I ran to my vehicle and took off down highway to for my paid job at a Grocery Store. Arriving half hour late for my shift I appologized to my manager and offered the excuse that I was late due to the Concorde. Said manager laughed out loud and said that it was the craziest excuse he ever heard.

    Couple hours later I got a call from the Manager. He just finished BBQ for the family and had told his wife about my crazy excuse. The dinner got interupted by a very loud unusual looking fast airplane that rocketted over head on its way to Edmonton Airport. The wife’s comment, “I think your staff member told the truth”!

  • Hi Merge,

    I used to live and teach in Arviat, a community on the west shore of Hudson Bay. One morning I had to phone my principal to tell her I was probably going to be late because there was a polar bear in my front yard.

    Her response: Just walk back-to-back with your wife and you’ll be fine! (She WAS kidding!)

    Anyway, the bear ambled off and, in the end, I made it in to work just on time.


  • Okay, Kris and Don; I have to agree, your excuses are priceless. The craziest part of course is that they’re true. But I would have loved to be there to see your managers’ faces when they first heard them!

  • The bear reminds me of the time I worked for the summer at Banff National Park. It was common for animals: elk, moose, bears… to delay your arrival to work. There was one story though that went around that summer of one seasonal worker who used the excuse one too many times and his boss threatened to fire him if he was late again. Turns out crying wolf backfired as one day there was an elk or such in his front yard and he couldn’t leave. So he tried to walk on top of the fence to get by (which if you don’t know is usually a wood fence with barb wire on top to try to keep the animals out. As the story goes he just about made it to the street when his pants got caught on the barb wire. Luckily he landed in the neighbors yard but his pants remained on the fence. He arrived to work with no pants but on time.

    Not sure if it was true but still funny!

    • Corinne, this is such a crazy excuse that it’s just got to be true! I mean, who would make that up?

  • There was this one time, I was about to leave for work when suddenly i received a call from my ex after almost half an year since he last called (We have broken up for 3 years but remain friends). Apparently, he was looking for advise on his new but rocky relationship. My curiosity to learn more on his story had outweighed my sense of responsibility. So, instead of telling him that i was about to be late for work, I told him that I had all time to listen to him.
    Well, I was almost 1 hour late to work, without getting into any serious trouble. However, it was well worth taking that risk , as his story had fueled many weeks of gossips between me and my girlfriends!

  • Sylvia, you’re funny! You know what they say … no risk, no reward! 🙂


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