Yes, we all live full, busy lives,as a result, it’s inevitable something will come up that causes us to miss a deadline or be late for work once in a while. But while you’ll often need to give an explanation for your blunder, you should never make excuses. The truth is, they don’t actually help you save face at all, and they risk damaging your relationships at work—or worse, convincing your boss you’re not equipped to handle your job. Read on for three common excuses you’ll hear in the office, and why you should avoid them at all costs.

1.“Blame it on the Train”

OK, sure, sometimes the train, or the bus, or the carpool lane is a disaster, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But nine times out of 10, you should still make it to work on time, because you’ve built that unpredictability into your commute time. That’s what responsible adults do, right? Yes. Blame the train, and your boss will see right through it.

Instead, try being honest. Being honest about the real reason you’re late shows you have the courage to own up to your mistakes, instead of assigning blame whenever something goes wrong. 

2.“I’m Waiting for Bob in Accounting to Call Me Back”

The guys in accounting—or HR, or at the Post Office—really get a bad rap. Somehow, they’re always the ones to blame when a deadline has been missed or a project is taking longer than planned.

The last thing your boss wants to hear when a deadline is near—or missed—is that it’s someone else’s fault. Besides, you won’t be making any friends in accounting, either.

A good rule of thumb is to always have enough information about the status—including any potential delays—that you could give an executive summary to your boss if surprised in the elevator. Your boss (and Bob) will thank you for it.

3. “I Don’t Know How”

This may be the granddaddy of all excuses, and should never be used when explaining why you whiffed on an assignment. Admitting you don’t know how to do something at the start of a project, immediately followed by “Please show me how,” is obviously OK—in fact, it’s essential to progressing in your career. Your boss knows you don’t know how to do everything—but she does want to know that you’re willing to figure it out, and that you’ll take some initiative if you’re stuck.

The difference between explaining yourself and making excuses is definitely a grey area, but if you keep these tips in mind, you’ll steer clear of most of those murky waters and cement your reputation in your boss’ mind as a star, not a slouch.



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