Volume 20, Number 8 -- February 28, 2011

No Excuse for Tardiness in Poor Economy

Published: February 28, 2011

by Jenny Thomas

My alarm didn't go off. I couldn't find my car keys. My kid wouldn't get up this morning. We've all had those days when we just couldn't get it together to be on time. But a recent survey by CareerBuilder reveals that the recession appears to have improved punctuality in the workplace.

The national survey, conducted among 2,482 U.S. employers and 3,910 U.S. employees between November 15 and December 2, 2010, revealed that 15 percent of workers said they arrive late to work at least once a week, which is actually a slight improvement from 16 percent in 2009 and quite a bit better than the 20 percent reported in 2008.

"Whether it is a result of fear associated with the economy or just a shift in attitude, workers over the last few years are doing a better job of managing their schedules and getting into the office at the designated time," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder. "While workers will sometimes be late due to circumstances out of their control, they need to be aware of their companies' tardiness policies. Regardless of the reason, workers who are running late should always be honest with their managers."

Some employers may be willing to look the other way for the occasional late-arriver, but if you're regularly rushing in the door, be warned: 32 percent of employers said they have terminated an employee for being late.

Of course, being perpetually late isn't funny, but the excuses for the tardiness can be entertaining. Traffic, weather, lack of sleep, kids, and pets are some of the more common excuses most of us have blamed at one time or another for running behind schedule. But here's a few of the more outrageous excuses employers reported from employees arriving late to work:

  • Employee claimed his car was inhabited by a hive of bees and he couldn't use the car for two hours until bees left.
  • Employee claimed her cat attacked her.
  • Employee claimed there was a delay with public transportation and produced a note signed by "The Bus Driver."
  • Employee claimed his Botox appointment took longer than he expected.
  • Employee claimed his hair was hurting his head.
  • Employee claimed he knew he was already going to be late, so he figured he would go ahead and stop to get donuts for everyone.
  • Employee claimed her karma was not in sync that day.
  • Employee claimed he wasn't late, the company clock was wrong.

There is no data on what types of industries the survey participants work in, but if a company is running an IBM i, known for its 24x7 reliability, maybe its human counterparts feel like it's alright to be late now and then since they know the i has got their back? OK, maybe that's not a very good excuse, however, interestingly enough, a similar survey of Canadians, and we know the industrial area surrounding Toronto is a hub of i users, found a different trend.

Nearly one-in-five of our neighboring workers to the north questioned said they are late to the office at least once a week.

That means this survey, conducted among 227 Canadian employers and 550 Canadian employees between November 15 and December 2, 2010, found 19 percent of workers are late weekly, which is an increase from 17 percent in 2009. And 11 percent admitted they are late two or more times a week.

Besides the normal boring reasons for not punching in on time, the Canadians actually had a few more creative excuses for being late:

  • Employee claimed a bear stopped his car, broke his window, and tried to grab him.
  • Employee claimed a prostitute stole his car keys.
  • Employee claimed he couldn't find his clothes.
  • Employee claimed his dog ate his Blackberry.
  • Employee claimed he ran over himself with the company truck.
  • Employee claimed he was playing a video game and didn't want to break up the group he was playing with.
  • Employee claimed he forgot it was a workday.

Whatever your reason, we all know that being perpetually late is plain bad for business. And with jobs in short supply, it appears U.S. workers are learning that lesson.

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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik, Victor Rozek,
Jenny Thomas, Hesh Wiener, Alex Woodie
Publisher and Advertising Director: Jenny Thomas
Advertising Sales Representative: Kim Reed
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