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Are you as creative on the job as your excuses for playing hooky?

Our board member John Hollon, Vice President for Editorial of, muses on how to channel worker creativity.  What works for you?

It's not a secret that employees can be incredibly creative when they want to be. The big issue is getting them to be equally creative, in a positive way, when they're on the job.

I was thinking of this while going through the results of a CareerBuilder survey in February that focused on the most memorable excuses that employees give for being tardy or late for work.

According to the survey, more than a quarter (26 percent) of employees admit that they're late to work at least once a month, and 16 percent say they're late once a week, or more.

No wonder so many managers say that they spend way too much time just getting people focused on doing their job.

As bad as those numbers are, the thing that really jumped out of the CareerBuilder survey were some of the outrageous excuses that workers gave for being late to work. For example: ·

  • The employee who said she dropped her purse into a coin-operated newspaper box and couldn't retrieve it without change (which was in the purse).
  • Employee who accidentally left the apartment with his roommate's girlfriend's shoes on and had to go back to change.
  • An employee's angry wife had frozen his truck keys in a glass of water in the freezer, and he had to thaw them out before he could drive to work.
  • The employee whose car wouldn't start because the Breathalyzer showed he was intoxicated.
  • An employee who had attempted to cut his own hair before work, but the clippers stopped working, so he had to wait until the barber shop opened to fix his hair.
  • Employee's car was attacked by a bear (had photographic evidence).
  • Employee drove to her previous employer by mistake (hey, I can see someone doing this!).
  • Employee who claimed to have delivered a stranger's baby on the side of the road.

Yes, some of these excuses are real whoppers, but it just goes to show you how incredibly creative that workers can be when they find themselves in a pinch.

Overall, the survey found that traffic was the most common cause for workers to be late, according to 31 percent of those surveyed. No big surprise there. Other factors for tardiness include lack of sleep, the need to drop off the kids at daycare or school, bad weather, and public transportation delays.

All of that sounds reasonable, because just about anyone who has managed people for any length of time knows that all of those things happen to employees on occasion. It's just one of the issues that managers have to deal with as part of their job.

But, it's the wild and crazy excuses that give me pause, because I keep coming back to a simple question when someone lays one of these crazy excuses on me: why can't you be this creative and resourceful when it comes to doing your job everyday?

In 30 plus years of managing people, I still haven't come up with a good answer - but I'm still looking. Let me know if you have a reasonable explanation. There has GOT to be some way we can channel all of that into positive, workplace behavior.

Share your insights!

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