Every once in a while, you might need to take time off from work. However, you might not always have the best reasons for doing it.

Sometimes you’re looking for another job to escape the mindless grind at your current job, while other times you just can’t face your colleagues that day due to a broken heart or too much champagne the previous night. You can’t necessarily tell these to your boss so an excuse is the only solution.

But excuses come in all shapes and sizes – you need to know which one to use to ensure you don’t end up hurting your career. In this post, we’ll look at 12 excuses for missing work. We’ll be exploring:

  • Four good and common excuses,
  • four bad and problematic excuses, and
  • four of the outright ugly and funny excuses.

And finally, we’ll go over the steps to coming up with an excuse and pulling it off – no matter what the reason for slacking is!


Excuses are always, well, excuses but it doesn’t mean they are inherently bad. There are good reasons for skipping work and they aren’t always down to you being mischievous.

So, what is a good excuse? The common denominators for a good and common excuse are:

  • They have honesty in them. Now, you might not have flu that would keep you from working but you can still be sick. An excuse doesn’t have to be void of truth and as you’ll see below, there are plenty of valid reasons for staying home.
  • They are believable. Even when you are making an outright excuse for not showing up and lying a little more than you might want to, a good excuse is still believable. Your boss is more likely to buy your excuse and accept it at face value if it doesn’t sound like something from a Hollywood blockbuster.

If you want to use a good excuse for missing your work, these four subject areas would be worth exploring:

1. Sickness/doctor’s appointment

Just tell your boss you’re sick. You most often don’t have to start producing doctor’s notices for one-day off work – although check the policy for this if you’re actually not sick! Telling your boss you have an upset stomach or temperature as high as a hot oven will be sufficient and believable. It’s a bit lame but definitely believable reason to stay home.

2. House emergency

A broken boiler or a flooded bathroom can also work as an excuse. Things break down all the time and it’s not safe to leave a sparking fridge unattended – your boss will have to understand that. You can easily claim to have a house emergency and expect your boss to be nice about it.

3. Family emergency

If you have children, then you can usually get away with telling there’s a family emergency and you have to deal with it. Children getting sick or requiring extra attention can work – even if you don’t actually need to stay at home with them every time.

You can also excuse yourself from work if your parents or spouse have had a serious health problem. However, you definitely don’t want to start lying too much here or draw in your cousins to the lies – remember to have some honesty and believability for the excuse to be good.

4. Delivery of a major purchase

Major deliveries require someone to be home to accept them. Fridges, furniture and the like can’t be left on the side of the door and you can use these occasions as an excuse to not going to work. It’s not always possible to organize the delivery outside of your work hours anyway so it’s a believable excuse – even if you are actually just waiting for a book delivery!


Then there are the bad excuses. Now, it’s easy to think bad excuses are always just bad lies but that’s not true. Some of the worst reasons for skipping work are the actual truths. But the truth is sometimes ugly and you’d be better off using one of the above excuses then blasting out one of the ‘truths’ from below.

So, what makes an excuse bad and problematic? The common denominators are:

  • They are lazy. As mentioned above, you might not even be trying to come up with a believable excuse but just blur out an inconvenient truth. You won’t make your excuse stick if you’re not even trying to feel sorry for missing work – there are times when thinking hard for an excuse is better than just lazily coming up with something. For instance, you work as a VPN software engineer in the remote mode. Having a lot of tasks to be completed you might start watching Netflix with VPN explaining it with its direct relation to your daily duties.
  • They are hazy. Bad excuses are also a little lacking in terms of the explanation. While you don’t want to come up with a weird storyline to pull off an excuse, you can’t make your reason leave more questions than answers.

Therefore, you want to avoid these four excuses for missing work, if you want your boss to still like you:

5. Someone’s death

It’s one thing to claim your mum’s sick and needs your help, then to say she has died. In fact, there are stories of managers who’ve had an employee lose their mother or another relative twice (Yes: the same relative has died twice).

Certainly, if someone in your family has actually died, it’s not an excuse but a valid issue to talk to your boss about and ask for time off. But don’t lie about someone’s death – that’s just horrible and wrong on many levels.

6. Vehicle problems

The car breaking down and not starting might have worked as an excuse in the past but right now, the answer from your boss might be “to get an Uber”. Taxi-hailing apps and the public transport are so good in almost every corner of the world that vehicle problems are not a good excuse to use.

7. Partying

You might have been partying the previous night and now you have a headache. But don’t use it as an excuse to miss going to work. After all, you always know when you have to go to work and as an adult, it’s your responsibility to plan your life accordingly. You might be thinking you’re being honest but you don’t really get a free pass to miss work just because shots were cheap after midnight!

8. Feeling tired

Everyone will wake up at times and feel like they are tired. Some mornings going to work just seems the last thing you want to do. But you shouldn’t use tiredness as an excuse because many people will be showing up despite feeling the same.

If you find yourself constantly tired and thinking about claiming it as a reason to show up, you might want to call in sick and figure out why you’re so unhappy.


While the above excuses are generally rather bad, you can still get away with them. However, there are excuses real people have used but which define any sense and sensibility. These excuses are not bad in the “you’re just lazy”-kind of way, but they are so unbelievable that your boss probably won’t know how to react.

These excuses for missing work are usually:

  • Refutable. A claim your boss can simply say isn’t true. Remember that your boss has access to Google and a phone – they can call to check if what you’re saying has actually happened.
  • Outrageous. A claim that’s so crazy your boss might actually get angry you’re even trying it. You’re not trying to get fired, you’re just having a day off.

However, if you do want to try your luck, here are four excuses for the brave:

9. Aliens/ghosts

You might feel like an alien abducted you last night but it’s probably just a bad hangover. You don’t want to start excusing not showing up to work with wild stories about aliens and ghosts. It’ll just ruin your reputation at work.

10. Crazy court cases/Outrageous accidents

It’s also not the time to start making up stories about jury duty in a murder trial or a dog eating through your car tires. The crazier the story, the less likely your boss is going to believe it. You most likely won’t get a pass with a story about mixed plane tickets and connecting flights.

With modern technology, mistakes like these are actually rather rare. If you’ve actually been in a freak accident, it might even be better to say you’ve pumped your car and you need to see the doctor!

11. Distant relatives/friends having problems

While it’s OK to take time off to look after your child, spouse or parent, your boss might not enjoy you staying off work for your aunt or the neighbor’s cat. Unless they are really sick, you don’t want to use distant relatives or friends as an excuse. Your best friend’s unsuccessful love life is also not really a valid reason to stay home.

12. New job

You might actually be looking for a new job but telling this to your boss as a reason for not coming to work might not be the smartest of ideas. If you are honest about staying home to find a new job, you might have your boss react in an unexpected way.

Well let’s just say that you might want to find that new job sooner than you think. There’s nothing wrong with having to skip work for your job hunt but you don’t want to admit it to your boss. It might be better to say you’re sick or there’s been a family emergency rather than to admit you might be changing jobs.


Whatever your actual reason and whatever excuses you decide to use, there are a few ways to make the excuse sound better. With these simple four steps, you can guarantee your boss doesn’t start quizzing you more about the reason and you won’t put your career in jeopardy.

So, to make your excuse work, you need to:

  1. Pick a story and stick with it.
    You need to decide what your excuse will be and know it by heart. You can’t start doubting or thinking about what to say when you are talking to your boss. It’s a good idea to just go with your chosen story and stand by it.
    Naturally, it helps not to lie but to pick something close to the truth. You don’t have to reveal it all or stick to nothing but the truth but a hint of it will help.
  2. Stay confident and calm when you call your boss.
    You also need to stay confident when making the call or sending the e-mail (calling is better!). If your boss can sense doubt from your voice, you might end up ruining your chances of a guilt-free day-off.
    If you’re actually sick, looking for a better job, or just really stressed, you shouldn’t beat yourself about it. You do deserve to have a break occasionally and you can always work harder the next day.
  3. Keep it brief and alert the employer as soon as possible.
    As soon as you know you won’t be showing up to work, let your boss know. It can help them sort out a replacement or divide responsibilities differently at the workplace for that day. Just because you aren’t showing to work doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to limit the disruption.
    When you’re making the call keep it short. You don’t have to explain the depths of your sickness, for example. If your boss isn’t buying the reason, they’ll ask questions.
  4. Be prepared and willing to take the consequences!
    If you are lying through your teeth with your excuse, you need to be prepared to take the consequences. Your boss might find out or ask for proof of the event. It’s important to think about this before you make the phone call and ponder whether honesty is the best policy or what you’ll say if the truth comes out.


There are all sorts of reasons for missing work (you might actually use your time off for starting an online business on the side). We can’t all perform like robots and show up every single day. But telling your boss you need some time at the spa is not always a good idea. Coming up with an excuse can be the only way and there are differences in what makes an excuse good and outright laughable.

So, if you are thinking about taking time off to search for a new job or just lying in bed, check the above 12 excuses to find the right one for your occasion.

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