No Limit to What Can Derail Worker Punctuality

Car trunk thieves, gas station stick-ups and shower mishaps are the types of incidents some workers claim prevented them from getting to work on time last year, according to CareerBuilder.

When asked how often they come in late to work, more than one in five workers (23%) admitted they do it at least once a month, and 14% say it’s a weekly occurrence for them. Of the workers who have admitted to being late for work in the past, 30% have lied about the reason for their tardiness.

Forty-one percent of employers have actually fired an employee for being late. However, some employers are more lenient than others: One-third of employers (33%) say they have no problem with the occasional late arrival, as long as it doesn’t become a pattern, and 16% say they don’t need employees to be punctual if they can still get their work done. According to the survey results, 59% of workers who arrive late will stay later to make up for it.

Traffic is the most common cause of tardiness among employees (50%), followed by lack of sleep (30%) and bad weather (26%). Trying to get the kids to school or daycare is a roadblock for one in 10 workers (12%), while public transportation and wardrobe issues get in the way of being on time for 7% and 6% of workers, respectively.

But, some workers give managers more unconventional excuses, including:

  • I knocked myself out in the shower;
  • I was drunk and forgot which Waffle House I parked my car next to;
  • I discovered my spouse was having an affair, so I followed him this morning to find out who he was having an affair with;
  • Someone robbed the gas station I was at, and I didn’t have enough gas to get to another station;
  • I had to wait for the judge to set my bail;
  • There was a stranger sleeping in my car;
  • A deer herd that was moving through town made me late;
  • I’m not late; I was thinking about work on the way in;
  • I dreamed that I got fired; and
  • I went out to my car to drive to work, and the trunk had been stolen out of it. (In this case, the employee had a photo to prove it.)  


The survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among 2,192 hiring managers and human resource professionals and 3,056 U.S. workers (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government) between November 4 and December 2, 2014.