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Better or Worse Excuses for Missing Work

Last updated by Utkarsh Sahu on Apr 01, 2024 at 01:15 PM | Reading time: 25 minutes

Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life – Anonymous

Most of you are grinding through life and are working for long hours to take your career graph up a notch. From the monotony, it is only normal for any human being to take a break every now and then, just to experience a world without the stress and deadline demands.

And sometimes, all you need is to just stay back home and maybe binge that series you wanted to watch for a long time or try out some new tweaks in the UI of the application you are building. The bottom line: the need for time-outs cannot be stressed enough.

It is a given that the excuses you use to get out of work are professional and not outrageous. You should also consciously make an effort to not repeat the reason too many times as it portrays a lack of proactive measures.

Here's what this article will cover:

  1. What makes an excuse good?
  2. Factors determining good excuses to call off work last minute
  3. Valid and good reasons to call out of work
  4. Great excuses for missing work
  5. Excuses which are a strict NO-NO at the workplace
  6. Excuses which are awful and vague
  7. Some bizarre excuses to get out of work
  9. Coming late or leaving early
  10. Pro tips to make your excuses infallible
  11. Four steps to making your excuses plausible
  12. What could happen if you get caught with a lie?

What makes an excuse good?

If you are planning to take a leave and looking for an excuse, your best shot is an honest approach. However, if that is a no-go for you, consider using legitimate reasons, on which you exercise no control.

Some of these excuses to get out of work include:

  • Your car broke down.
  • Your sister is having a baby.
  • Your friend met with an accident, and you must go over immediately to donate blood.

Factors determining good excuses to call off work last minute

Genuineness: You must ensure that the excuses you use are genuine and not something out-worldly imaginative or creative. Yes, it can use a bit of flair but it’s cardinal not to go for the same excuse repetitively as it undermines the importance of the reason. It would also encourage your boss to disbelieve you after a while.

Honesty: Honesty is the best policy – whoever said it, could not be any more right.

The more lies you add, the harder it gets for you to remember. Plus, your supervisors have seasoned experience. If you spin your web too complicated, chances are your manager would call you out and nobody is a big fan of such moments.

Brad is just feeling lazy today and wants to stay home. He doesn’t have any pending work and has also done some extra work to help his team. So, he decides to enjoy a relaxing day but could not figure out an excuse as he has never done this before. He calls his boss and states that a truck rammed into his garage. Reluctantly, his boss approves.

Believable: The excuse which Brad used is not a believable one. It is in your best interest to use a believable reason which is neither redundant nor obvious. The trick lies in maintaining professionalism and using legitimate excuses while reassuring the work has been or will be covered.

Listed below are the most used and most believable excuses to call off work last minute. After you spend around 20 minutes reading this here, let’s just say your boss will no longer be reluctant to approve your leave. And you can enjoy your day off without any hiccup!

Valid and good reasons to call out of work

Your manager is not expecting to hear excuses like the one Brad gave. If indeed you are giving a fake excuse, make sure it does not seem injudicious or unscrupulous. As per CareerBuilder reports, some of the recurrent excuses for missing work are:

Traffic – It is reported that nearly 51% of the excuses for missing work are traffic-related. It is widely accepted, and not too many managers challenge for justification or proof. However, the frequency of this should not make your boss go “Not again, Brad!”

You do not want to be in Brad’s shoes, do you?

Oversleeping – Approximately 31% of the excuses to call into work are on the grounds of waking up late. It does not, unfortunately, speak volumes of your professionalism. Use this excuse judiciously, only under extreme circumstances.

Jonathan and his boss live around 6 blocks apart. Jonathan was not aware of this and cited bad weather conditions to skip work. His manager, on the other hand, traveled by the same route to the office and instantaneously caught his lie.

Bad weather – Around 28% of excuses to get out of work are credited to bad weather conditions. Your management is certainly aware that weather control is not in your hands but make sure you do not get caught either.

Too tired – Did you know that almost 23% of the professionals use tiredness as good excuses to miss work? Yes! Corporate kings like Facebook, Google, and the likes want your services at your best condition. If you are unable to put in your shift at 120%, do not hesitate to rejuvenate those coding brain cells which have been working so hard throughout the week.

Do not overuse it.

Forgot something – As per reports, 13% approximately use forgetting something as an excuse to get out of work. It shows a sign of inconsistency and diffidence on your part and if you were a manager, would you have preferred someone who is forgetting official work now and then and calling out of work? Of course, no!

Great excuses for missing work

Looking for some great excuses to skip work for that weekend trip? Want some pro tips? You have stumbled upon the right place.

Ensuring that your work for the day is covered is your first priority. You can then use the following excuses to not go to work. They are set up according to the most acceptable ones to those which are not likely to impress your boss.

Sickness – Sickness is one of the most preferred excuses to get out of work. It is only normal that you would not want to overexert yourself working ill. On top of that, your illness may be contagious, and it’s in the best interest of the company and your peers that you take a day off. Nobody is looking particularly forward to work with a sick co-worker.

Some ailments which will prevent any further probe from your supervisor are listed below along with the usage percentage.

  • Flu - 41.2%
  • Back pain - 38.5%
  • Injury caused by accident - 38.2%
  • Stress - 34.5%
  • Elective surgery - 35.2%
  • Depression - 34.5%
  • Anxiety - 25.4%
  • Common cold - 23.8%
  • Migraine - 21.7%
  • None of the above - 7.7 %

Doctors’ appointment – Can you imagine your manager putting off an urgent doctor’s appointment which you managed to get on account of work pressure? You bet not! Using this excuse is extremely convenient, but it’s crucial to remember the reason you cited the consultation for any future reference. Your best shot is keeping it simple and to the point. The more the lies, the harder to remember.

If you tell the truth, you do not have to remember anything. – Mark Twain  

Family illness or emergency – This is a limited resource and must be utilized cleverly. You get a “my girlfriend or wife is sick” maybe once a month. So, do not overuse it to the extent where it becomes obvious and redundant. Notifying the supervisor about the situation and following up with updates is a must.  

Miscellaneous appointments – In this age of digitalization and globalization, it is more than ordinary for people to have multiple interests. These interests may ask for appointments with various professionals, or maybe some other personal issue also demands the same. If you want to play safe, this is your go-to excuse with countless options to choose from.

Home emergency – A home emergency is an excuse that cannot be refuted. It is thus one of the best excuses to call out of work. It is essential on your part to inform your boss about the situation. Do not forget to give updates and inform whether you would take a leave on another day or not. It is your job to convince your boss that your work has been taken care of and that your team will not be in hot soup because of your absence.

Death of a relative – Using the death of a relative or family member as a reason for calling out of work is quite common. What people forget is, HRMs and your managers and supervisors also have a good memory, and recalling the same excuse you used previously will not land you in a very comfortable chair.

Babysitter problems – If you are a single parent or married, leave applications for babysitter problems almost always get approved. Also, your child is your first priority. These are not even valid reasons to call out of work, but an indispensable duty instead. No manager would criticize his or her team member for babysitter issues, but, let your performance dip, and expect some critical reviews soon after.

Performance is your reality. Forget everything else. -Anonymous

The child has to get a physical – It is a common exercise during Annual Sports events for your child to get a physical for sports and athletics. Citing this as an excuse to get out of work is valid and cannot be easily rejected.

Delivery – Delivery of heavy appliances can require technical assistance for which you may need to be present. Inform beforehand about the details of your leave and make sure there is no pending work at your end. If you inform on an emergency basis, it is the prerogative of your supervisor to approve or not. Act accordingly.

Family emergency – Family emergencies are irrefutable excuses to not go to work. Your manager will not ask you to prioritize your work over family. However, it is advised to not use this excuse excessively.

Furnace repairs – Furnace repair is sometimes compulsory, depending on the season. Thus, these are not frequently used excuses to miss work. Pulling the furnace repair card on the deck is always a safe hand to play.

Plumbing rain checks – Sudden plumbing mishap is another go-to option as it requires immediate attention. It is hard to deny such a leave application because of its nature and importance in day-to-day life.

Medical procedures – Medical procedures like colonoscopy, root canal, or kidney stone removal are all rare excuses but have good weightage. Inform your department in advance about the details of the procedure to prevent any misunderstanding, including doctor and hospital bills.

Medical tests – Medical tests are generally done on an emergency basis. So, clearing that out with your supervisor should do the trick. But, if it has been planned earlier, convey the test particulars and reason to the relevant supervisor for approval. If it is not outrageous, it will be accepted.

Migraine – Nearly 24% of American men and women suffer from migraines. These are fairly common and valid excuses for missing work.

Working with a deadening migraine can never deliver the best of qualities at work, which is not what the management expects from you. Take a day off and get better. Perform like the best with no match.

School closed – You are getting ready for work, and suddenly there is a call from school that it is going to be shut down for the day for a possible hostile situation. You will immediately rush to bring in your child, right? Inform the same to your manager and nobody in their right mind would stop you.

New baby in the family – New baby in the family is always a joyous occasion, enjoyed among the loved and dear ones. Make sure there is no pending work when you are calling off of work on the grounds of welcoming a new baby. Do not put your manager in a situation you yourself would not want to be in.  

Mental health day – Mental health is a serious condition that must be looked after at all costs. If you feel you are having any trouble with your mental well-being, take a day off, and do not hesitate to call to work and explain your issue.

Excuses which are a strict NO-NO at the workplace

“All faults may be forgiven of him who has perfect condor.” – Walt Whitman

Working at giants like Google, Facebook, SpaceX, Tesla Inc., etc. demands the holy trinity of success - hard work, dedication, and honesty.

You need to pay attention to the last detail and discrepancies are not really popular in and around. So, even when you are applying for something as basic as a leave, ensuring your sincerity and dedication to your work must be omnipresent.

Make sure that the excuses to get out of work are not lazy and hazy
  • Lazy: When you are using excuses like too tired or overslept, it conveys a lack of conviction towards work and your responsibilities. It is not exactly something that a process manager in Google or Netflix is looking forward to working with. Choose your words carefully, and excuses even more so.

Some frequently used lazy excuses are:

  1. Too tired
  2. Overslept
  3. Too much heat/cold
  4. Hangover
  • Hazy: Excuses to get out of work should be brief and to the point while conveying the essential details. A leave application without any explanation is something you must consciously put an effort to avoid. This does not send a positive message about your persona and professionalism. Without commitment, you are just another employee under the payroll of your employer.

Be the difference you want to make.

Some frequently used hazy excuses are:

  1. Unhappy with the job
  2. Transportation issues
  3. Relative’s death

Excuses which are awful and vague

While it is okay to take a leave from work, it is your responsibility to ensure that your team will not be in dire straits in your absence. Withstanding, you must not put forward excuses to get off work that are downright funny or outrageous, which your manager can instantaneously decline to approve. Do not use excuses which can be:

Refutable: Do not give excuses to call out of work which can easily be rejected and can simultaneously ruin your reputation at work. This affects your growth at corporate kings like Google and Facebook.

Outrageous: Using excuses, such as not getting enough sleep, are appalling and do not impress the manager or the management. You are playing on thin ice using these excuses if your manager does not have the greatest sense of humor. Restrain yourself from using such brazen excuses to not go to work at all costs.

Doesn’t take much, do it?

Michael calls to work and says his neighbor’s dog has broken a leg, and he needs to take the dog to a vet. His manager refuses to accept such an excuse and asks him to come down to the office or work from home and complete his work. His manager is visibly irate with such a lack of sincerity.

Some other such instances are:

Crazy court cases like your brother sued by his neighbor for putting up a halogen in his garden isn’t the best excuse either to take your day off. Yes, you are entitled to take time off, but so is your company – to receive a clarified justification from you for the same.

While every Jack needs to get time to play, he must ensure he fulfills his responsibilities on time. Or, if you’re looking for a new job and need to take a leave, it is not the best idea to be entirely honest to your boss about it. You can always use valid reasons to call out of work like sickness, medical tests, and doctor appointments instead to save any blushes which may come your way later.

Some bizarre excuses to get out of work

It’s better to offer no excuses than give a bad one. – George Washington

Your minor daughter hid your car keys, and you are unable to find them. You are reluctant to inform the police, and so, you need a day off to find your missing keys or get a replacement.

Does it sound like a legitimate excuse if you are the manager? No, right?

Because it isn’t!

When a manager gets notified about an employee taking a leave because bats got in her hair, it is not possible for him to keep his calm demeanor in some cases. Patience is a virtue, but testing it is a sign of lack of wisdom.

On a scale of 1-5, 1 being least likely and 5 being the most, what are the chances that a refrigerator has fallen on you? Do not use absurd excuses whose probability of happening is low to nearly none.

Lyra is standing in a long line at Starbucks. After she gets her latte-to-go, she comes outside and saw a truck dumping flour onto her convertible which also had the laptop which had the security server codes. So, she asks for a leave from work which her supervisor instantly declines.

Excuses need to make sense while adhering to professionalism and office decorum. It is your responsibility, so don’t let yourself or your organization down.

Using an excuse like getting a deer bite during a hunting session is futile and disgraceful. Except for taking your reputation down in the dumps, it does not serve any useful purpose. Pick your excuses meticulously.

Giving ambiguous reasons like drinking too much at a party last night, or having a digestion problem is strictly discouraged. Not only does it put a dent on your reputation but also reflects your reluctance.

Similarly, if you say you broke your nose falling out of your bed in your sleep, the chances are that your boss will see through it.

Awkward, right?

Refrain from using excuses that can make anyone go “how on earth!”


Pro tips to sharpen your professional conversational skills
  • Always keep in mind the person you are conversing with. Behave accordingly.
  • Do not keep anybody waiting for your reply. Time is precious.
  • Be a grammar Nazi! It helps.
  • Do not end your chat abruptly. Clarifying every requirement is a priority.

Most people are greatly fond of puppies. That is until you say you caught a cold from your pup. Even thinking of giving such excuses must be prevented. Feasible excuses like a sprain or a cough or a medical can suffice.

When you use excuses like “a child pushed a mint up your nose and it got stuck”, it is the kind that makes your boss evaluate your contribution to the company. If indeed it is the truth, make sure to provide a medical document as evidence.

If you have hurt your back by chasing a beaver, the office is not responsible, by any means. It is your duty to take it on the chin or be ready to face the consequences of using such a lazy and superficial excuse.

In the same way, giving a vague explanation for missing work about your toe hitting a vent cover is considered to be a lack of commitment and integrity. If you are the manager of a company, would you want somebody slacking off in your team while others keep grinding?

Also, your manager is not responsible to keep track of your garage sales escapades or your headaches due to the same. Do not give your manager unnecessary trouble with such callous excuses to get out of work.

Use simple, to-the-point, clear explanations for your leave, and have a guilt-free day-off.

Your organization is not responsible for the irresponsible actions you take. Drinking anti-freeze by mistake and then demanding a leave for it is the exact unenthusiastic traits that supervisors dread and dislike.

Your safety is in your own hands. If not, be ready for the consequences. If a bucket falls on your head through the roof of a bowling alley, it is wise to not produce such reasons to miss work in the official version. Use a more genuine and believable reason to justify your absence.

Coming late or leaving early

Blake wants to leave early the next Friday for a doctor’s appointment. So, he informs his HR and manager about it. They approve it without any further questions.

Every employer hiring a person keeps a certain set of expectations from the employee, which he or she is required to fulfill. If you are unable to meet those requirements, you need to give an explanation justifying your lacking performance. This also applies to the working hours set by your organization.

If it so happens that you are unable to comply with the rules for a day, it is best if you inform beforehand. Completing your day’s work is an absolute must.

Some common and legitimate excuses to come late or leave early from work are listed below.

Physical injury is one of the valid reasons to call out of work, leave early, or coming late to work. Any pain prevents you from achieving your maximum productivity level. To prevent this, sickness or physical injury is universally accepted as a reason to miss work. However, in the case of recurring issues, it is best if you discuss the problem with HR management.

Medical appointments are the first priority, and your management understands that. If required, do not hesitate to inform your lead beforehand. Ensure you have done your job for the day or got it covered by a peer before you leave.

A family emergency is another cause where the probing is minimal. Do not take undue advantage of this slack. Keep updating about your status and whether you can attend office the day after or otherwise.

Religious customs are an exception where the managers do not intervene or interfere too much, as long as you deliver the work on time. Informing prior to the festival or event is the best way to go, since keeping your management on the same page as yours is just as crucial.

Pro tips to make your excuses infallible

Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses. - Mitt Romney

Be honest – Honesty is the best policy. Always keep this in mind while looking for excuses to call out of work. Do not keep your manager in the dark.

Don’t over-explain – Keep your excuse short, simple, and specific. The more you explain, the more complicated it gets. The more complicated it gets, the harder it becomes for you to remember.

Contact your employer immediately – If you are planning to take a leave, do not delay it till the 12th hour before informing your supervisor. He/she has to re-assign your tasks to somebody else, and doing it on such short notice is anything but convenient. Do not create trouble for your organization.

Avoid dishing out too much information – Give only information that is absolutely necessary. Too much information can cause you more harm than good. Share details in a professional manner, only of the requisites to ensure there is no leakage of personal info.

Stay off social media – Beware of what you post on social media. Your employer may come across something you posted which contradicts what you said at the office while applying for the leave. Not a situation you are looking forward to, is it?

4 steps to making your excuses plausible

Take your pick and stick to the excuse – It is of prime importance to choose the story that you want to state for your leave. It is best if you are truthful about your excuse to get off from work. This will prevent any future misunderstanding.

Confidence during communication – Keep your composure when you are conveying your reason of absence. Do not stutter or show a lack of confidence during this conversation. These traits do not bode well while excusing yourself from work.

Be proactive and keep it short – It is your duty to be proactive to inform your manager of your absence rather than being reactive. It is beneficial for you if you are informing the reason to miss work as soon as you can for the convenience of your team. Also, keep your excuse short and simple. Do not over complicate it and embarrass yourself later.

Willing to face the consequences – While it is okay to take the occasional day off from work, it is also wise to be ready for the consequences if you are neglecting work for your leisure convenience. If the call comes, do not be astounded.

Taking an off in advance

Dorothy is suffering from a loose tooth for a couple of months now. But her team needs her to give the finishing touches to the MySQL server optimizations. She finally completed it today and applied for a day off next Monday. It was approved without any hesitation.

This is an ideal professional procedure for a leave which is accepted in all organizations. You need to inform the concerned authority about the day you need to take a leave and provide a solid reason for the same.

What could happen if you get caught with a lie?

Jonah said he has some urgent medical emergency even though he just wanted to go to a movie with his girlfriend. While coming out of the movie theatre, he met a partner of his company, who was also there for the show. Needless to say, it was a very uncomfortable situation. He received a warning email the next day for lying and low integrity.

If you are lying to your management, be prepared to face the consequences in case you are caught. You must stick to only effective excuses to skip work to save any future embarrassment.


Utkarsh Sahu

Director, Category Management @ Interview Kickstart || IIM Bangalore || NITW.

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