9 Terrible Excuses For Missing Work

woman in pajamas looking upset while calling work

Adobe Stock

Single mom & Paralegal extraordinaire.

Whether it’s an unavoidable emergency or you’re just not well enough to make it in, nearly everyone will have to call out of work at some point in their career. While I don’t suggest you ever call out for the thrill of it, sometimes there just isn’t a way around taking the day off, and when the time comes to make that dreaded phone call to your boss, there can be an underlying pressure to come up with a good excuse. The trick to giving your boss a good excuse for taking the day of is ensuring that there is an element of truth to it. Here are some of the worst excuses I've come across along with some suggestions that might work out better for you. 

The worst excuses for skipping work.

1. “My car won’t start.”

Although this may have been a valid excuse at one point, in today’s world, this excuse is far from a good one. If you live in the city, it's not that difficult to find public transportation or call a cab. If you live in a less populated area, it still might be a little more difficult to find another means of transportation, but in most places, it’s still possible to download a carpooling app like Uber or Lyft. Regardless, your boss will almost always prefer that you show up late after finding alternative transportation than have you not show up at all.

Say this instead: “I have to take my car to the shop.” If you truly are having trouble with your vehicle, it would be reasonable to explain that you need to take the day off in order to sort out whatever issues you may be having in order to avoid any further interference with your ability to get to work. 

2. “I haven’t slept.”

Unfortunately, while a lack of sleep isn’t very conducive to productivity, most bosses will not see this as their problem. They might offer you some coffee or vitamins, but more than likely, they will not consider this a valid reason for staying at home. If you're taking the day off to catch up on sleep, you might be better off using the excuse that you're sick. 

Say this instead: “I haven’t been feeling well and haven’t had any rest. I think I need the day off to recuperate so that I can be more productive.” 

3. “My bus broke down.”

Okay, so if this is true and you rely entirely on public transportation to get to work, your boss might accept it. However, you should consider that there are other busses throughout the day that can probably get you where you need to be, and your boss would probably agree that it’s better late than never. And honestly, you never know who else takes your bus. I’ve seen people use this excuse before only to find out that Amy from accounting takes the exact same bus and made it to work on time. 

Say this instead: “I am dealing with some unexpected circumstances at home.”  

4. “I had a nightmare and I'm scared to leave the house.”

I’ve heard this one before, too, and it honestly just left everyone in the office baffled and possibly a little uncomfortable. It came across a little whacky and no one even knew if they should take it seriously. An excuse like this one really invites more questions and concerns than you're probably prepared to deal with, so if it’s not true, find another excuse. If it is… well, you still might be better off finding another excuse. 

Say this instead: “I need to take a mental health day.” If you truly are dealing with something like anxiety or paranoia after having nightmares or similarly distressing circumstances, this excuse allows you to proceed with an element of truth that will ultimately express the importance of having time off without inducing the skepticism that the previous excuse might have.

5. “My alarm didn’t go off.”

I’ve heard this one before, and maybe if it happens once in your entire career, you might be okay. Let’s be honest though, this is another one of those excuses where you really could just go into work when you wake up. To make matters worse, in my experience, people who use this excuse tend to use it a lot, and after a while, your boss is going to wonder why you don’t buy a new alarm or set the one on your smartphone like everyone else. 

Say this instead: “I'm sick and slept through my alarm.” Again, I don’t recommend that you claim you are sick when you aren’t, especially if there's a strong possibility that you will eventually have to take days off due to actual illness, but if you overslept and aren’t feeling up to going in this could explain why you didn’t come in to work a few hours late. 

6. “I forgot what day it was.”

This is a bad excuse whether it's true or not. It shows that you have become disorganized and can make your boss think that you don't value your job enough to pay attention to your schedule. Either way, it isn’t a good look, and no day of playing hooky is worth the loss of respect from your boss. 

Say this instead:  "I forgot that I have an appointment." If you have accidentally double-booked yourself, you should just be honest about it. You shouldn't use this excuse more than once or else you risk having your boss question your dedication to your job, but accidents do happen. 

7. “I don’t want to leave my pet alone.” 

Pets are generally wonderful. They love you and they make for excellent knights in shining, furry armor to have by your side in the fight against loneliness, but they aren’t great excuses for missing work. Unless your pet is really sick (sick enough to take to the vet immediately) and there isn’t anyone else to take them to the vet, your boss probably isn’t going to be impressed with this one.

Say this instead: “I have to take my pet to the vet.” If your animal companion is truly ill, it's perfectly acceptable to request a day off to make sure that they get the medical attention they need. 

8. “It’s too hot/cold out.”

Unless you’re living in Florida and there are suddenly several inches of snow on the ground, I’m guessing that you probably have a wardrobe that encompasses items typical for a wide variety of weather conditions and societal expectations. If you tell your boss you’re too cold to work, they’re probably going to wonder why you don’t just wear layers. If you’re lucky (or unlucky depending on your perspective) they might even offer you a coat. Either way, this excuse falls flat.

Say this instead: “I don’t feel safe driving in these weather conditions.” If the roads near your house are treacherous, employers typically will not push the issue as it could lead to a lawsuit if you get into an accident after they insist you make the trek to work. 

9. “My family member has died.” (When they haven’t.)

This is just a horrible excuse. It’s the worst one on the list, and lying about a tragedy like this is absolutely unacceptable. Not only is it bad karma, but it completely disrespects the feelings of anyone you work with who has experienced the loss of a loved one. Experiencing a familial loss can be extremely traumatic, and it isn’t fair to anyone to use this kind of excuse just to garner sympathy. 

Say this instead: “I have a family emergency.” I want to be clear that I still do not recommend using this one unless you truly are dealing with a family emergency, but it will usually be effective because these types of emergencies can be private and personal in nature, and employers won’t want to ask too many invasive questions. 


Can you get fired for missing a day of work?

Unfortunately, there's no universal answer to this question. Depending on the state you live in you can be fired “at-will,” meaning that you can be fired for nearly any reason at any time. Fortunately, most employers would rather give you a warning or three before going through the hassle of replacing you, which means you're probably safe to call out occasionally. Just remember that you need to limit these to 2-3 times a year if at all possible. 

What's the best excuse to miss work?

The best excuse to miss work is the one that is true to your situation. The more outrageous the claim, the less likely it is that your boss will believe you. 

How many days a month can you miss a job?

I wouldn’t recommend missing a day every month. Sometimes it will be unavoidable, but you should aim to miss only a few days every year rather than every month. 

Don’t miss out on articles like these. Sign up!