Excuses, Excuses ...

By Kathy Gurchiek Mar 3, 2008

So, you thought you'd heard the most creative excuse for missing work? Try these:

  • The guy with the artificial eye who called to explain that he wouldn't be in because he misplaced his eye after his cat knocked it off the bedside table and started playing with it.
  • The postcard with a correctional institution's return address and the message, "I will not be at work next week because I'm in prison."
  • The moose that stood in a woman's driveway munching leaves from trees and bushes and blocking her exit for about an hour.

"Sometimes there is a case where crazy things do happen," said Jennifer Sullivan, spokesperson for CareerBuilder.com, which commissioned a nationwide survey of 1,600 people.

The Out of the Office survey conducted in August 2004, which included responses from 700 managers, found that 20 percent of workers surveyed called in sick because they didn't feel like going into the office that day. More than one-third of U.S. workers called in sick at least once last year when they felt well.

Attending to personal errands and appointments, catching up on sleep and relaxing are the top three justifications given for providing a bogus reason, according to CareerBuilder.com.

Among the most unusual:

  • My bus broke down and was held up by robbers.
  • I was arrested as a result of mistaken identity.
  • I hurt myself bowling.
  • My curlers burned my hair and I had to go to the hairdresser.
  • I eloped.
  • My cat unplugged my alarm clock.
  • I forgot to come back to work after lunch.
  • I totaled my wife's Jeep in a collision with a cow.
  • I had to be there for my husband's grand jury trial.
  • A hit man was looking for me.
Then there was the receptionist for a Virginia chiropractor who called her boss to say that her boyfriend's ostriches had escaped from their pen and she was helping him chase them. She called back the next day needing another day off because she was sick, she told HR News. A few ostriches had been hit and killed by motorists and, after eating the ostrich meat, she became ill.

While some managers were amused by the wacky excuses cited in the study, Sullivan said, others were frustrated at what they saw as a lack of employee job commitment.

Using sick days for time off that has nothing to do with illness also is a reflection of the changing perception of the purpose of "sick days," she said.

"Twenty-five percent of those we surveyed said sick days were just extra vacation days and they treated them as such," she said, adding that some people see sick days as "mental health days."

But then maybe you'd need a mental health day, too, if a hit man was after you.

Kathy Gurchiek is an associate editor at HR News.

Terms of Use: © 2005 Society for Human Resource Management. Members of SHRM are authorized to distribute copies, excerpts or e-mails of this information for educational purposes internally within their organizations. No other republication or external use is allowed without permission of SHRM. The information is not intended to serve as a substitute for legal advice.

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