Good and Bad Excuses to Leave Work Early

Swinging a perfect attendance record for work is nearly impossible, and it isn’t something most bosses expect. There will inevitably be some days when you’ll have to leave early with little or no advance notice. But which excuses are acceptable and which will leave your manager frustrated? 

leave work early

You’re sick

Abruptly feeling ill in the middle of the day is something almost everyone can relate to, whether it’s a sudden migraine or tummy troubles from trying out that new taco truck. Most bosses will be understanding of the occasional need to duck out early due to sickness. This becomes even more relevant if you have children who are unwell, and you need to pick them up early from school or daycare.

Seriously ill spouses or parents are also completely legitimate reasons to leave the office before official quitting time—especially if there’s a doctor’s appointment involved, since most offices (with the exception of urgent care clinics) close by five o’clock.

An emergency at home

An emergency at your house or apartment, such as pipes bursting or a flooded bathroom, is also a reasonable excuse to leave work early. Most people can empathize with an unforeseeable home ownership disaster—almost all of us have been in that unfortunate position at one time or another.

An important delivery or service call

Additionally, many bosses won’t mind if you have to run home early to sign for a large delivery (such as a new refrigerator or couch) or leave for a service call (AC or heater maintenance) since many of these types of work can’t necessarily be scheduled for a specific time that falls outside of office hours.

While there are legitimate excuses for leaving work early most bosses will find completely reasonable, some are almost guaranteed to leave a bad taste in their mouths.

You partied too hard

Admitting to your superior that you need to leave early because you were out too late the night before and feel like you can’t make it through the whole workday will raise a red flag about your suitability for employment.

If you regularly find yourself wanting to call it an early day due to staying out too late the previous night, you may want to reevaluate your personal habits. Try not to use this excuse even once—it can change a boss’s perception of you for a long time.

You’re tired

We wish it weren’t so, but feeling tired just isn’t a great excuse for leaving early. If you continually find yourself exhausted at the office and can’t pinpoint any specific reason (young children, staying up too late, etc.), you may want to consider scheduling a checkup with your doctor.

Your car broke down

Car trouble used to be a pretty common reason people would occasionally need to leave work early, but no more. Most garages have a before- or after-hours drop off area, and the rise of ride share apps make it less and less likely that you’ll have to leave work in order to tend to your vehicle. This excuse makes even less sense if you happen to live in a city with decent public transportation.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember we’re all humans who will need empathy and understanding. Approach your boss honestly, and chances are good that occasionally needing to leave work early will be just fine. Remember that making too many excuses (whether they happen to be on the good or bad list) will have a detrimental impact on your career path.

At the end of the day, companies want reliable workers they can trust to show up and perform the tasks they’re hired to do. Cutting out of work early on a regular basis will quickly erode any goodwill or confidence you’ve managed to earn thus far.

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