We've all heard one. We've all said one. A lame excuse. While excuses can be annoying anytime, chronic excuses in the workplace can tarnish your reputation and cast doubts on your abilities.
Excuses that don't work:
- I was working on [low-priority project]. If you have a hard time prioritizing your work, ask your supervisor when the projects are assigned. If you don't ask, it may be assumed that you should know, and this excuse won't fly.
- I didn't know it was due yet. A few things you should always ask at the beginning of a project: timeline, budget, and relative priority. Not asking doesn't mean you're off the hook.
- Most things that you volunteer without being prompted. Making an excuse when you're not being questioned makes you sound guilty. Are you?
- Anything that's repeated more than once a month. Chronic excuses send up a red flag. If you are constantly having difficulty getting your work done, then maybe you're in over your head.
- I'm waiting on [someone else]. Does this someone else know you're waiting on them? What's their excuse? While some folks just can't be prodded along quickly enough, learning good project and people management skills can help you avoid most situations like this.
- I didn't see that after-hours request come in. Although the lines are increasingly blurred with today's technology, this is valid if you're an hourly employee and aren't required to check in outside of work. If you're salaried and exempt from overtime, it's a little fuzzier, especially if you have a work-issued cell phone that you're expected to check.
- I was working on [higher priority project]. Although any excuse should also be avoided, if a high-priority rush project came in and took up your time, don't drop the ball. At the same time, you shouldn't let progress lapse on lower priority projects if you can help it.
- Emergencies. While I hope this doesn't happen to you, sometimes an emergency can derail our work. Sudden illness or medical emergencies, death, and personal catastrophes can result in unplanned days off work.
What's the worst excuse you've ever heard at work? The worst one you've ever used?