We all have those days when life and work collide. Sometimes the reasons for missing work are legitimate, not so much other times. Regardless, reasons vary from needing a “mental health” break to escape a punishing workload or a toxic office environment to household or health-related emergencies.
To determine how frequently employees called in sick when they weren’t, Harris Poll conducted a survey from August 16 to September 14, 2017, which CareerBuilder analyzed to discover that “40 percent of workers have called in sick in the last 12 months when they weren’t, compared to 35 percent in 2016” and “43 percent have caught an employee lying about being sick by checking out their social media posts, up from 34 percent last year.” In addition, of those employers who checked on sick workers, 26 percent fired those workers for lying about their illness.
“Sick leave” brings to mind images of sneezing, coughing, fever, and the general misery that keeps a body confined to bed; however, it encompasses doctor’s appointments, which CareerBuilder says account for 30 percent of sick leave excuses. Business management is (slowly) coming to realize that their employees do need time off to replenish mental and physical reserves. They call that “vacation.” Companies that track employee absences and the reasons for them note that while truth may be stranger than fiction, offering outlandish reasons for not coming in to work trigger warnings and suspicions of dishonesty.
The Balance recommends that honesty be the first and best resort for explaining why you call to miss work, if only because it’s easier to remember the truth than a lie. However, should you truly feel the need to take off work when you aren’t really ill, then Ranker offers a list of over 50 excuses to get out of work, with those near the bottom considered the least credible.
Be sensible, though. If you called off work to attend your mother’s funeral, then you can’t use that excuse a second time. If you tell your boss that there’s a bear in the front yard and you’re afraid of going to your car or that aliens abducted you the night before and you’re feeling woozy from the experiments and probes, then prepare for unpleasant consequences. A sane, sensible, common reason makes the best excuse; refutable, outrageous reasons don’t. Cleverism cautions, “Remember that your boss has access to Google and a phone – they can call to check if what you’re saying has actually happened.”
Understand that everyone has access to social media. Posting pictures of your night of drunken revelry and then calling off work the next day will almost certainly result in the discovery of your dishonesty. If you call in sick and then boast in social media about how much fun you’re having at the amusement park or the ballgame, consider yourself busted.
Don’t complain of an invasion of privacy if you either posted such discrediting information for public viewing or if your boss is included in your social network. Many employee manuals state that employees have no expectation of privacy on company computers (to discourage such activities as watching movies, playing online games, or viewing pornography on company time and company-owned equipment). Anything posted online for public access is fair game and not considered private.
While laws or policies might prohibit your boss from calling upon you to verify the truth of your reason for missing work, nothing prohibits management from scanning Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or other platforms for evidence. Therein lies one good reason never to post anything on social media platforms that would embarrass your grandmother.
Yielding to the temptation to call off work with a feigned excuse puts an undue burden on coworkers who must shoulder your workload. Colleagues who understand the necessity of missing work when you’re actually sick or taking pre-scheduled vacation time will resent the added workload if and when they discover you lied. Breaking your colleagues’ trust leads to a stressful workplace filled with suspicion, distrust, and micromanagement. Coworkers who did nothing to deserve that distrust will resent you for it.
Taking an unscheduled day off without a valid excuse may result in missed deadlines. Those clients, remember, have clients of their own and your failure to deliver may result in postponed delivery on their part. The disappointment cascades and you or the company for which you work may lose a client. If you freelance, heed this caution. Nothing prevents clients from checking up on you to verify your reason for missing work.
The best excuses are irrefutable and based in real life. The worst strain credulity and point to dishonesty like a blinking neon sign. Some examples follow:
If your company requires a formal (read: written) excuse for an absence, The Balance recommends: “Keep the note brief and professional. In the letter, state what days you were off, why you were off, and, if sent ahead of your absence, if you have asked any coworkers to take over any tasks.” Resist the temptation to over-explain and go into detail and don’t apologize. If you have planned your absence in advance, be sure to share the information with coworkers so they can adjust their schedules and workloads accordingly. You may also wish to state that you will be periodically checking your email or leave your phone number in case an emergency at work needs your immediate attention.
Over a third of employers check up on employees who miss work. If you do get caught in a lie, your dishonesty may result in termination of employment. Even if your boss gives you a second (or third) chance, be aware that you have broken her trust. You may never fully regain that trust and your coworkers may suffer from an extension of that distrust. In such a circumstance, resolve and keep that resolution to maintain scrupulous honesty in all further interaction so that the next time you miss work, you can provide evidence of the truth of a valid excuse.