If being late to work were not a problem, no one would need to come up with an excuse.
But people do — trying to appease the boss with a reason for their tardiness — and that can lead to strange clues on what’s happening outside of the workplace.
“I had to wait for the judge to set my bail.” “There was a stranger sleeping in my car.” “I was drunk and forgot which Waffle House I parked my car next to.”
CareerBuilder, a Chicago employment services firm, shared some of the findings from an online Harris poll of 2,100 human resource managers and 3,000 workers that found 23 percent of employees admitting to being late at least once a month. Fourteen percent said they were late at least once a week.
Just how big a deal this is depends on the type of job someone has and, perhaps, on the age of those involved.
“Some places need to be stricter on employees clocking in, as the nature of the job demands being on time, such as retail, customer service, hospitality and transportation industry jobs, to name a few,” said Mary Lorenz, corporate communications manager for CareerBuilder.
Other industries may be more flexible than in the past, she said, citing both technology that lets people work outside the office and a growing emphasis on trying to let people achieve a balance between their jobs and their personal lives.
She noted the survey done in late 2014 found 33 percent of employers didn’t mind the occasional late arrival as long as it didn’t become a habit, while 16 percent worry less about punctuality than about employees getting their work done.
Not to start a round of generational finger-pointing, but 22 percent of millennials in a separate survey by YouGov admitted to being late at least once a week compared to 15 percent of those 55 or older.
Overall, 38 percent of the younger group said they never got tied up in traffic, delayed by bad weather, had problems with day care or anything else that would make them late, while 55 percent of the older group counted themselves as reliably punctual, according to the U.K. market research firm.
Some employees running late in an era of social media tweet about their woes. Recent messages seen on Twitter include: “I passed out after getting 10 viles of blood drawn. #LateToWork #SoMuchBlood” and “Burnt my hand with my straightener, lost my bra somewhere in my room. … #LateToWork #LateForLife.”
CareerBuilder did not identify the age of the individual who, according to its poll, tried to fend off criticism of arriving late with this rationale: “I’m not late. I was thinking about work on the way in.”
The Chicago employment firm’s research identified traffic as the most common reason cited for being late, followed by lack of sleep and battling Mother Nature’s vagaries. Weather that is.
Safe to say few employees have used this unusual excuse reported to CareerBuilder: “A deer herd that was moving through town made me late.”
Instead of excuses, Lorenz recommended workers who find themselves running late offer a sincere apology and an honest explanation. “Most employers will forgive the occasional tardiness within reason,” she said.
“If the employee shows little remorse, does nothing to right the situation and/or is consistently late, however, there may be a larger issue (which could be anything from immaturity to burnout to a misunderstanding of workplace expectations around punctuality) that needs addressing,” she said.
Just under one third of employees polled by Harris admitted they had lied about why they were late, maybe because 41 percent of employers had fired people for being late, the employment services firm said.
A 2013 YouGov survey found 50 percent of Americans rated a co-worker’s tardiness as among the most annoying things in the workplace, followed by 43 percent who were unhappy about someone “visibly slacking off.”
No wonder that one individual, according to CareerBuilder, took a photo to back up the story that thieves had stolen the trunk out of his car.