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CAREER FLASH

The dog swallowed my car keys


Everyone's had them -- mornings when what can go wrong does. In a recent survey, executives revealed the most imaginative explanations they've heard from tardy employees -- everything from pet-related problems to long lines at the coffee shop.


Accountemps, the world's first and largest temporary staffing service for accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals, developed the survey. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from executives at Canadian and U.S. companies.

Executives were asked, "What are some of the more creative excuses you've heard for why employees are late for work and meetings?" Other than caring for children, the most frequent reasons involved man's best friend. Here is a sampling of their responses:
  • "The dog was asleep behind the car and I couldn't back out of the driveway."
  • "My dog swallowed my car keys."
  • "My dog didn't come back after I let him out."

    Some ran into a few roadblocks:
  • "I hit a mountain lion on the way to work."

    Employers also recalled tales of unfortunate run-ins with moose and bears on the morning commute.
  • "A helicopter landed in the street and I couldn't get around it."
  • "My garage door was frozen shut."

    The following explanations are variations on the age-old "stuck in traffic" excuse:
  • "A long line at the McDonald's drive-through held me up."
  • "My car keys fell into the toilet."
  • "The elevators in this building are too slow."
  • "I tried a new way into work and it took me two hours."
  • "The traffic lights were mis-timed on my way in."
  • "The line at Starbucks was out the door."
  • "The waitress at the drive-through latte stand spilled coffee on me."

    Speaking of coffee, the next people could have used a morning pick-me-up before heading to the office:
  • "I forgot what day it was. I thought it was the weekend."
  • "I couldn't remember which time zone I was in."
  • "My wife and son took both cars and when I went outside there was nothing in the driveway."

    They say better late than never, but excuses like these next ones are particularly hard to swallow:
  • "I was kidnapped by aliens."
  • "I'm not late. I decided to change my hours to make them more convenient."
  • "My roommate locked me in the bathroom."
  • "We had a death in the family."

    This would have been a valid reason if the employee hadn't told his boss this same family member had died several months earlier.
  • "I couldn't find a tie to match my shirt."

    Accountemps periodically surveys executives for the most unusual excuses for being late. Here are a few classics:
  • "The wind was blowing against me."
  • "My favourite actress just got married -- I needed time alone."
  • "My husband's pet spider died and I had to console him."
  • "I felt it was better to sleep in at home versus sleep at the office."
  • "The bartender wouldn't let me leave."

    "While these examples are humorous, they address a frequent challenge for managers," said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Managing Your Career For Dummies (Hungry Minds, Inc.). "An employee's habitual tardiness can affect the productivity of the entire team and overlooking it reinforces the behaviour."

    "Managers should establish policies that reinforce the value of staying on schedule," said Robert Hosking, Accountemps branch manager. "Failing to arrive promptly at client meetings not only jeopardizes business, it reflects poorly on an individual's level of professionalism."


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