Common Excuses For Leaving Work Early (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 28, 2020
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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Articles In Life At Work Guide

Given that working consumes a large part of our lives, it’s no surprise that sometimes, something comes up that interferes with at least one workday. Whether there’s an emergency, life-changing event, or you simply aren’t feeling well, it’s usually okay to give yourself a short break from the daily grind. After all, our lives can’t always be so consistent as to always conform to our usual time off.

Things happen. We’re all human.

With that in mind, there will always be legitimate reasons to leave work early. You’re not the only person who has to do this from time to time, and you certainly should feel bad if you have to leave for the right reasons. Additionally, if you have a valid excuse, most employers will understand your request.

Knowing the right and wrong reasons to leave will help you respect yourself and your employer. Therefore, this article will discuss appropriate reasons to leave work early, as well as some not-so-appropriate ones.

What to Consider Before Making Your Request

Every employer will vary, as each will have a different company culture and expectations for their employees. That being said, you should evaluate your own circumstances before asking to leave a shift early. Think about the type of job you work, your manager’s and supervisor’s personalities, and the nature of your reason.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Company culture. Some fields and workplaces are more cutthroat than others, with managers and supervisors expecting employees to report early and stay late as a way to prove their dedication and loyalty to the company.

    On the other hand, you may have a workplace that is laid back and often gives people their time off, shift swaps, or other scheduling requests. Take some time to evaluate your company, and understand how they expect you to manage your work-life balance.

  • Workplace policies. Unlike the unwritten rules of your company’s culture, these policies are ever-present and should always serve as a guide to your workplace behavior.

    Individual companies may spell out any valid reasons to leave your shift early and reasons you will automatically be denied for. If you’re unsure of these rules, read your employee handbook, or contact the human resources department.

  • Your habits. If you have a history of skipping or arriving late to work, the worker who’s a poster child for workplace excellence is far more likely to receive their early leave request. Be consistent in your workplace habits if you want employers to take your requests seriously.

  • Your workplace relationships. Your relationship with your managers and supervisors can play a pivotal role in whether or not you receive approval on your request to leave early. Do you get along with your manager? Are you friends with the person who creates the work schedule?

    These connections are all valuable if you want to persuade anyone to your side. In the workplace, do your best not to allow a breakdown of communication or cause tension.

  • Directness. Instead of asking a co-worker and letting them feed the information up the chain of command or leaving before properly communicating with someone, be direct in addressing your manager. Approach them and be open about why you feel as though you need to leave early.

  • Importance of the request. While this will be addressed on a deeper level, the nature of your request also plays a huge role in your chances of approval. Be aware of common, appropriate reasons employees are allowed to leave early. Never approach your employer with a poorly thought out excuse.

When you approach your request with knowledge of your company’s standards, and the appropriate professionalism, you’re much more likely to sway your employer.

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Though there may be instances where you do everything right and still face denial, if you do the proper research, you’re much more likely to come across receptive ears.

Acceptable Reasons to Leave Early

If you need to leave work early, you shouldn’t worry. It happens. However, be aware that there are good reasons to leave and bad reasons to leave. It’s essential to be mindful of these reasons so you don’t cause a rift between you and your employer.

Here are some valid and appropriate reasons to leave early:

  1. Medical emergencies. Whether it’s your significant other, family member, or even your pet, being told that there’s someone in the hospital is an important reason to leave early.

    You should never feel guilty about asking to go if someone important to you is hurt, sick, or in danger.

  2. Home ownership commitments. Sometimes you might have to attend a meeting when you’re buying a new home or have an emergency in your current home (burst pipes, fires, break-ins, etc.).

    You could also have an important delivery of furniture or appliances. These are all valid reasons to ask your employer if you can leave early.

  3. Family obligations. If a family member has passed away or needs to pick up your child from school, your employer should grant your request to leave early.

    However, using family gatherings as a reason may be less well-received, so you should have an idea of what your manager or supervisor will allow before you ask.

  4. Feeling unwell. Sometimes not feeling so hot is a good enough reason to get off work. After all, your employer won’t want you in the workplace if you’re sick, especially if you’re contagious. Without going overboard with details, tell your employer about your headache, stomach ache, cramps, fever, etc.

    Also, be aware that even while sickness is a good reason to leave, it’s also a common one. The more often you use this excuse to leave early, the less likely your employer will believe you.

  5. Professional and personal development. If you have a workshop or class you need to attend – especially if it’s something that your boss wanted you to do or something that will improve your skills in your current career – you should feel confident about asking to leave early.

    Attending the workshops and classes you’ve signed up for is an important responsibility.

  6. Networking activities. If you’re obligated to attend local government meetings, chamber of commerce meetings, a convention, or any other important company-related events, you should be able to leave early.

    These meetings are essential for your employer, so they should have no issue granting you your request.

  7. Exhausted productivity. If you spent the previous night working overtime at your job or have been putting in a copious amount of hours the past week, it might be okay for you to ask if you can leave early. If your current work is complete, your supervisor might be understanding of your request.

Unacceptable Reasons to Leave Early

While the acceptability of your reason to leave can vary from employer to employer, there are some generally bad reasons to leave early. Try to avoid using these reasons, especially if you don’t want to harm your future credibility.

Here are examples of bad reasons to leave work early:

  1. Boredom. Just because you feel like you have nothing to do at work, that doesn’t mean your employer will feel the same way. In this case, rather than asking to leave early, you should approach your manager or supervisor and tell them you’ve finished your current tasks. More than likely, they’ll give you more to do.

  2. Casual hangouts. Even if you want to hang out with your best friend or sibling from out of town, you shouldn’t use that as an excuse to leave early. Generally speaking, if you know you want to spend time with someone, you should plan those events on your days off or put in a time off request ahead of time.

    Asking to leave early so you can see some friends is not very professional.

  3. Being hungover. Sometimes hanging out with friends can get a little out of hand, and you might find yourself with a raging headache the next day.

    However, giving yourself a hangover is optional and somewhat irresponsible if you knew you had work the next day. Because of that, you shouldn’t use your hangover as an excuse to leave early.

  4. Recreational activities. When you want to play sports or practice a hobby, you should find the time to do that outside of work. Even if you booked some basketball lessons and mixed up your availability for the appointment, you shouldn’t ask your employer to leave early.

    Instead, contact the person you made the appointment with and request to reschedule.

  5. Personal stressors. While it feels terrible to break up with a significant other or have a fight with your best friend, these stressors alone are not valid reasons to leave work early. Take a deep breath and use your work to give you some time not to think about the emotional turmoil that comes with these events.

While all of these reasons will usually be considered inappropriate and unprofessional, it’s vital to understand your company, managers, and supervisors. Are they friendly or strict? Empathetic or robotic? Consider your knowledge of your company when thinking about any reason to leave early.

Additional Tips for Requesting to Leave Early

If you know you have to leave early, and want to give yourself the best possible chance, here are some additional tips you should keep in mind when approaching your employer:

  • Research. This can’t be mentioned enough, but know your company’s culture, policies, and managers’ personalities. When you can read the room, it’s much easier to know what requests will be appropriate and how your employer will react to them.

  • Diplomacy. Speak to your manager or supervisor as professionally as possible. You shouldn’t beg them, and you definitely shouldn’t act entitled to time off. Instead, it’s useful to explain why you need to leave and how whatever you need to do will be positive in the long run.

  • Timing. Generally speaking, asking your employer to leave early during a rush or when they’re already angry about something isn’t the best idea. When possible, choose a slow, calm moment to make your request.

  • Give updates. When you want to leave early, it’s a good idea to give updates on how far you’ve gotten in your work. Ideally, you’ll want your employer to know that you’re ahead of, or at least keeping up with your current projects and deadlines.

  • Provide documentation. If you have a medical appointment or home emergency, it might be a good idea to provide related documents to your employer. Additionally, sending your employer a quick email about your absence doesn’t hurt either.

  • Find coverage. If possible, your employer will greatly appreciate you finding someone else to cover whatever work you’ll be missing. While this isn’t always an option in emergencies, finding coverage will significantly increase your chances.

Final Thoughts

Though your ability to leave work early is never guaranteed, you’ll find that your employer will be much more likely to grant your request when you follow these tips. When in doubt, respect your employer and don’t take advantage of their kindness, but also be aware that it’s okay to request to leave when you need to.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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