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The Best Ways to Handle Being Late to Work

Blog / August 2, 2018

Ahhhh! You’re late for work! Start panicking immediately! You’ll probably get fired, your girlfriend will leave you, and you’ll have to move in with your sister and her five kids. Definitely panic.

No! Of course you don’t need to panic. We’ve all been late to work before—and for very legitimate reasons. Your babysitter was running late, there’s a fender bender on the interstate, your daughter threw up on your new shoes, or the roads are slick with freeing rain. In fact, traffic, sleep schedules, and weather conditions are the most common excuses for being late to work. It’s out of your control. Here are some tips on how to handle being late for work.

Let your boss know

Check in with your boss as soon as you realize you’ll be late—call, text, or email. If possible, recruit someone to fill in for you until you get there and offer to make it up to her—bring coffee or exchange a favor. If you can, offer to stay late or come in early to make up the lost time.

Give a solid excuse

You had trouble getting a cab in the rain, the bus was late, or your kids were moving slower than molasses this morning. It happens. Just be careful not to shift the blame onto other people, just to explain what happened.

Tell the truth

If you lie about your reason for being late, it’ll surely come back to bite you. Someone will ask a detailed question and find out what really happened, and it’ll get awkward. Or maybe a co-worker spotted you at the Grateful Dead concert the night before, calling into question that your “cat was sick.” Your employer wants to know that he can trust you, so be honest.

But don’t over-share

Having to hear too many details about your situation might irritate your boss. And too much information makes it seem like you’re totally making up a story. In fact, if your reason seems too far-fetched, skip it. Just apologize, own that you were late, and move on.

Don’t make it a habit

Use excuses sparingly so your supervisors and co-workers don’t start to see you as unreliable. If you can’t manage to get to work on time, they won’t be able to depend on you to fulfill your other responsibilities either. If you use up all your absences at the start of the quarter, you’ve got nothing to fall back on later on when you really can’t make it to work. Try to schedule any medical appointments early in the morning, late in the afternoon, or on days off, so you’re not missing work frequently. If you can minimize the impact of your lateness and not let the quality of your work suffer, your supervisor will probably barely even notice.


For more information on how to impress your boss and earn her trust, check out our website at


Blog written by Erin Greenhalgh