Excuses, excuses – this week’s blog may sound familar

October 22, 2021

“I’m running late because my pet snake has escaped, and I need to find it.”

“I accidentally got on a plane.”

“A fortune teller told me I shouldn’t leave the house through fear of a brain haemorrhage.”

Believe it or not, these have all been genuine excuses from employees on why they can’t make it in to work on time.

Perhaps they remind you of a few outrageous excuses you have received in your lifetime? The creativity has certainly stepped up since school days. Did anyone’s dog really eat their homework, by the way?

Excuses from employees aren’t always this farfetched, but nevertheless can creep into everyday life and start to interfere with your business if they remain unchallenged.

So, what should you do when you are repeatedly being told “It’s not my fault.”?

Ask questions to better understand
When you are presented with an excuse, it’s helpful to ask open-ended questions to gather some more information. There could be a legitimate reason, and some adjustments may provide support.

For example, someone who is always running late may have trouble at home or a nightmare commute. An employee leaving work unfinished could benefit from some advice on time management or a review of their workload.

If, after this step, you are still receiving excuses from the same employee, you need to address their behaviour.

Seek to change the habit
Consistent excuse making becomes a habit and, like many habits, will remain that way unless it is challenged.

Although an employee may be providing believable excuses, it doesn’t help you if they are always late or leaving important work incomplete – especially if you have already tried to help.

If the employee is spinning a familiar story, let them know that this isn’t the first time that this has happened. You may find it helpful to refer to previous conversations on past behaviour.

Draw their attention to the bigger picture, and the impact that their behaviour is having on others. For example, if they are consistently late, clients don’t get seen to and it is unfair on co-workers who can make it on time.

You don’t want to get caught up in a cycle of more excuses, so end the conversation by asking them how they will avoid this next time. Check that they understand your expectations moving forwards.

Take it further if nothing changes
If you’ve got this far, you’re likely losing some patience with the same old excuses. You’ve asked questions, offered support, investigated to get to the root of the problem and still, there is an issue.

This is where a disciplinary procedure can help. It’s an important management tool which addresses bad behaviour, or poor performance, and clearly sets out company expectations.

The process involves an investigation and hearings, and must come to a fair and reasonable conclusion. Not all disciplinaries lead to a dismissal, but some do, and it’s crucial to follow best practice HR to avoid any future claims of unfair dismissal.

Call us for back up
From calling out a habitual excuser to sitting down in a disciplinary hearing, the process can be a pain and unfamiliar if you have never needed to do it before.

Our Advice Line is insured, meaning that if you follow our advice from the onset of an issue, you’re protected should a situation escalate to a tribunal. Want more top tips on dealing with employee excuses? Call us today.

Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce