5 Great Excuses for Missing Work (with Examples)
Good excuses, especially when they are lies, are short on details. Don't trip yourself up. Keep it simple, and don't feel pressured to reveal more details. Instead of elaborating, politely deflect any attempts by your boss or coworkers to sniff out any additional information.
A really good excuse to miss work is a stand-alone event: it's not going to require a bigger web of deceit or more explanations down the road.
1. Delivery of a Large Shipment
Once in a while, you need to replace an old sofa, washing machine, or television, or get internet or cable services installed. If you don't have a truck and a couple of beefcake buddies to rely on for muscle, you're not going to be able to cart that item into your own home.
You have to rely on delivery guys. It's understandable that you need to be off of work to receive the goods. It's not always possible to schedule the arrival around your work hours, and sometimes the delivery company postpones or reschedules your delivery.
You can use these occasions as acceptable and convincing excuses to call out of work.
“Hi, David! I apologize for the short notice, but may I take a day off tomorrow? I was expecting a sofa delivery this evening, but the delivery company just called and asked if I could be here tomorrow at noon. The next available time they have is in two weeks, so I'm hoping we can make it work for tomorrow. Sorry again for the short notice.”
When it might not work:
Don't use this excuse to call off work if you've told coworkers about how your spouse works from the comfort of your own home, or how your night-shift roommate walks around the apartment in their pajamas all day. In other words, you're going to raise suspicion if your excuse can't hold up.
2. Pet Appointment
This is a good, valid excuse to miss work on short notice, and it's something that is completely out of your hands. Simply let your boss know you need the day off to take your pet to the vet. You don't have to explain whether it's for vaccines or other issues.
Pets rely on us to take care of their medical needs, and vet appointments are usually packed. A scheduling conflict with the vet's office is believable and legitimate, especially if your boss also has a pet.
“Hi, Jennifer! Would it be okay with you if I take a day off tomorrow? I just spoke with my vet's office to book an appointment. I could either do it tomorrow or two weeks from now, and I don't want to wait that long. I really hope I can do it tomorrow so I don't have to worry about it for two weeks. I'm sorry for the short notice.”
When it might not work:
If your boss is a pet-hating Cruella de Vil, they might not deem this as a valid reason to call out of work. And by not making it sound urgent, they might deny your request.
On the flip side, you don't want to make it sound urgent if it isn't. Then you'll have to keep up the pretense at work that something is seriously wrong with your pet. You don't want to have to turn in an Oscar-worthy performance each day along with your usual work duties.
Use appointment excuses carefully; your boss could respond that you can have a couple of hours off to go to the appointment, but they want you at work the rest of the day.
3. Menstrual Cramps
There aren't many upsides to menstrual cramps, but getting out of work makes it onto that very short list.
This is one of the best excuses women have milked throughout the years because of its effectiveness. Everyone knows the reputation cramps have for messing with a woman's body and moods.
If you have a male boss, this excuse is especially golden, because you almost certainly won't be asked any additional questions about it. Men wisely treat the topic of menstrual cramps like the landmine situation that it is.
“Hi, Allan! I was wondering if I could have the day off today? Without getting into too much embarrassing detail, I'm struggling with killer cramps today. Nothing I try to do seems to be helping. I'm sorry this is such a last-minute request. I was trying everything I could think of so I'd be able to come to work.”
When it might not work:
If you have a hard-core woman boss who never skips work for any personal reason, this might be a harder sell. She might not deny your request, but she may hold it against you, wondering why you can't work through cramps when she can.
4. Unexpected Circumstances
Emergencies happen—it's a fact of life. Since everyone has had to deal with some sort of emergency at some point, this excuse is convincing and believable when handled correctly.
Make sure that your emergency is highly relatable and sounds like something that truly just came up and could happen to anyone, such as a family emergency.
“Hi, Kevin! I'm really sorry for the short notice, but something just came up and I was wondering if I could have the day off tomorrow. I just got a call from my sister, and she asked if I could help her move in tomorrow. She had people who were going to help her, but they just bailed out on her. Would it be okay if I take a day off tomorrow to do that?”
When it might not work:
You need to word your excuses carefully, or they may not be acceptable. When worded poorly, your boss might become suspicious about whether the excuse is even true. That can put your job in jeopardy.
In our example, the excuse is believable because your sister supposedly had her help dodge out on her at the last minute. That lends it an air of credibility because people who promise to help others move often make excuses as to why they can't when moving day gets closer.
Don't overuse this one. Most people don't have frequent emergencies—and you have a real one someday.
5. Not Feeling Well
It's an overused excuse, but it works. We all feel under the weather sometimes, and questioning if someone is actually sick is like burping in public—it's so impolite.
If you use this one, don't go into details. You don't need to paint the picture of having explosive diarrhea or frequent puking. Just state that you're not feeling well—the flu, a fever, or migraine will do.
If you can inform your boss through email, then break your email into 2 parts.
Email 1 - “Hi, Michael. I have a fever and a few other signs of some kind of virus right now. I hope it will go away by tomorrow morning, but I wanted to give you a heads-up.”
Email 2 - “Hi, Michael. I still have a fever and other symptoms, so I can't make it to work today. I hope I feel better tonight. If I don't, I'll let you know. Otherwise, I should see you tomorrow.”
Note: schedule your second email to send out between 4 to 6 a.m. If you can't find your email scheduling feature, check out this article.
However, if you must call in, keep it simple and try to sound sick, rather than happy that you're getting a day off.
“Hi, Michael. I'm sick. I feel nauseous and dizzy. I won't be able to come to work today. I'm sorry.”
When it might not work:
If you've overused this excuse in the past, you should find another excuse not to go to work. The average worker took 2.5 sick days in 2018. Have you taken much more than that? If so, tread carefully. You want to be able to use sick days if you really get sick.
And if you have called out of work a lot because of this excuse in the past year (or because you've been ill), you may be asked to provide a doctor's note—and that prospect might have you feeling sick to your stomach for real.
If you're calling in sick when you're actually going to an event, don't post those event pictures on social media. You'll be surprised by the amount of employees who were caught faking sick because of social media. We'll talk more about this in the Pro Tips section below.
A bad excuse is one that can be disproven. Your #1 goal should be to avoid getting caught. The only surefire way to do that is to stay home when you call in sick or use another excuse.
You should also stay away from excuses that make you sound irresponsible, lazy, or stupid. Those won't inspire confidence in you or the job you're doing.
1. Vehicle Problems
With Ubers readily available, this excuse for work absence doesn't pack the punch it once did. Unless you live in a rural area, this excuse won't fly. Even then, you might have a well-meaning coworker offer to pick you up.
2. Death of a Relative
The problem with death as an excuse is that it's so permanent. While your life may feel like a soap opera sometimes, a resurrected parent is a storyline that won't work. If you claim you're taking off work because your dad died when he's perfectly healthy, that excuse will likely come back to haunt you. Plus, it's just an awful thing to do.
3. Feeling Tired
Here's a news flash: everyone feels tired at some point, and they usually show up for work anyway. This excuse is so bad it's one your boss may share with your coworkers behind your back. You don't want to become the workplace joke. You'll have to do better than that if you want a day off.
4. Alarm Didn't Work
The problem with this one is that it makes you sound wildly incompetent. You don't want to sound like a college kid trying to pull one over on their professor when they're asked why they missed class. This one is so trite, it's as if you didn't put any effort into an excuse at all.
5. Unhappy with Job
Even if this excuse is true, never, ever admit it. That's begging to be fired. If you call in and ask for a day off because you're unhappy with your job, you might be fired on the spot. Unless that's your intention, skip this excuse.
Instead of living with a job that makes you want to dream up excuses so you can skip as many days as possible, why not put the effort into finding a better work situation instead? Your job isn't a life sentence. You can find a new job that you enjoy going to each day.
1. Don't Share Sick Day Events on Social Media
Nearly 50% of bosses have caught an employee faking sickness on social media.
If you're going to post the truth of your absence on social media, guess what, you may be busted next.
The lesson? Don't put up posts like “Blowing off work today to watch Netflix” or take pictures of yourself at a ball game when your employer thinks you're deathly ill.
For your information:
Employers can use your social media profile information against you. If your boss sees it, you could be reviewed for misconduct. It will discredit your future sick excuses and impact the relationship between you and your employer.
Don't share it with your co-worker, either. Even the best co-worker can get angry and reveal things to your boss that you thought were confidential.
2. Keep Excuses Simple
When crafting an excuse for work, you want to be somewhat specific, but not overly so. You have to be able to remember the facts you've already told about your lie.
The more you explain about your situation, the more suspicious it will seem to employers that you are covering something up. Otherwise, why would you still be babbling on?
If your over-explanations trip you up because your facts are no longer consistent, your employer may get angry or even fire you. Fakes excuses are grounds for dismissal. According to CareerBuilder, 26% of employers actually fire employees for fake excuses.
3. Be Consistent
It's very likely that your employer will follow up on your situation, so make sure that you're consistent with your excuse.
4. Notify Your Employer as Early as Possible
Your chances of calling off work on short notice without raising suspicion will be much higher if you tell your employer as soon as you can. It's courteous to give your employer enough time to readjust everyone's shift and workload.
Even if you're really sick and unsure if you will make it to work or not, tell your employer that you might not be able to work. You don't want to spread germs. If you have the flu or something more serious like coronavirus, it's better to stay home and rehabilitate. If your work involves contacting customers directly, it's even more important to rest at home.
5. Notify Your Employer When You Will be Back to Work
If you don't want anything to backfire, notify your employer when you'll be back to work. This is professional and leads your employer to trust you more.
6. Don't Show Patterns
If you always call in or email your employer on a Friday, it will rightly raise suspicion. If you take a sick day every month, that will, too.
7. Understand Your Company's Absence Policy
Read over the attendance policy and know your company's philosophy about taking time off. That will help you spot when you might need a doctor's note or if you might face consequences for missing too much work. You'll also learn any guidance about who, how, or when to notify the company that you won't be at work. Following the rules shows respect.
8. Try to Be Honest
You might lie about taking off work because you feel like you're letting down others who depend on you. You may fear being judged.
But telling the truth, or at least a version of it, is always the best policy. It can strengthen your relationships with your boss and coworkers. If you're entitled to a certain number of days as part of your company's paid-time-off policy, then try to be honest with your employer. Tell them you would like to take some PTO and will come back better for it.
Everyone needs a little time off now and again. There's no shame in that. Just be smart about the way you go about it. You're not just earning a paycheck—you're building a reputation.
Protect that reputation by making smart choices and picking your work excuses wisely.
- CareerBuilder. "Increased Number of Workers Calling In Sick When They Aren't, Finds CareerBuilder's Annual Survey". Retrieved Mar 7, 2020.