How to Tell Your Boss You’re Late (Script Included)

How to Tell Your Boss You’re Late (Script Included)

Your alarm clock never went off, you got a flat, or the subway got delayed. Things happen to the best of us at the most inopportune times. How you respond to them is what makes all the difference. Over explaining, hoping no one notices, and lying is not how to tell your boss you’re late. 

Allow Enough Time For Coverage

Allowing enough coverage when you can is critical. This means if you miss your alarm, you should reach out to your boss immediately. The last thing you want to do is hope that you can still make it in time or that someone won’t notice. Bite the bullet and let your boss know you’re late based on the outline topics below and suggested script. You’ll thank us later. Know someone that can cover for you? Start making calls. This way, when you can send an additional message to your employer, letting them know “Suzy” can cover for you until you arrive. Thanks, Suzy, for lightening the blow. 

Be Truthful 

This is a big one. Don’t add kindle to the fire by lying about why you’re late. The truth almost always comes out, and more often than not, your boss will know when you’re lying. We are all human, we’ve all been there. Be truthful in what happened but don’t over exaggerate or make excuses. Matter of fact responses is vital. 

Accept Responsibility 

Own your mistake, and within the same tone, you’ll want to convey it won’t happen again. If your alarm clock didn’t go off, mention going to the store after work to have them look at why. Missed the subway? Let them know you’re looking into alternative options next time. Own what happened and share your solution. If you were hungover, you have to be truthful when you tell your boss you’re late. Word it as if you were a politician. 

Give an Accurate ETA 

This one is key. It’s better to underpromise and overdeliver in this situation every time. If you know, it’ll be two hours until you’re there, give yourself an extra 30 minutes just in case. It’s already been a rough day; the last thing you want is to be late (again). However, make sure you’re not giving yourself too much extra time. This could mean the difference between keeping someone on shift a little longer vs. calling in someone else. 

Followup & Prove it Won’t be an Ongoing Issue 

Once you’ve arrived, you’ll need to check in with your boss. This is not the time to make excuses, try to justify why you were late or worse, show up with a coffee for them. This is the time to do a short elevator speech to let your boss know you’re there, and it won’t happen again. Much like with anything in life, actions speak louder than words. The quicker you keep the conversation, the sooner you can get to work. 

Make up For Lost Time 

This one surprisingly is often ignored. If you arrived late that day, stay late to make up for the lost time if you can, or if you work in a role where you can work from home, do so. Additionally, it’s highly advised to not only make up for the lost time but to put in additional time. This will show your boss that you mean business and that you value your job. When employees are late, it’s usually a sign to the employer that the team member doesn’t value their role. It’s up to you to show them this is not the case. 

Recurring Issue 

Has this been a recurring issue? Dive deep into your subconscious to determine what the bigger problem is. Are you running a thousand miles a minute, not getting adequate sleep or taking the time to care for your personal matters? Additionally, it’s also possible that you aren’t happy in your role, and you no longer value your job. If this is the case, it’s time to start practicing self care to avoid burnout. Not happy? Start applying for positions where you’re connected to the community culture, and you’re excited about work. It may sound crazy, but those opportunities are out there. 

Contacting Your Boss

It’s important that you contact your boss in the way they will receive it quickly. If they are a texter, you should text. If they are likely to answer the phone, you should call, and if they only communicate via email, you’ll want to send it that way. However, if your company has a policy about calling out of work, make sure to follow it. 

Text Script

Hi [Name],

I wanted to let you know that I’m running late to work today. I will be there by [Insert time+30 minute buffer]. I [Insert what happened – Keep it Short]. I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

Call Script

Hello [Name], this is [Your Name]. I’m running late to work today. I will be there by [Insert time+30 minute buffer]. I [Insert what happened – Keep it Short]. I will make sure to [Insert solution on how you’ll prevent this from happening again], so it doesn’t happen again. (If you work a position where someone could stay late or come in to cover in the meantime, this is where you’ll want to let them know you plan to call around or mention the options if you’ve already done so). 

Email Script

Dear [Name],

I’m emailing to let you know I am running late to work today. I will be there by [Insert time+30 minute buffer]. I [Insert what happened – Keep it Short]. I will make sure to [Insert solution on how you’ll prevent this from happening again], so it doesn’t happen again. 

  • [Your Name] 

Were you recently late to work? How did you tell your boss you’re late? What was the response? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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