Businessweek Archives

Lies and Hope


Believe it or not, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey, the following are the top ten “most unusual” excuses given for being late to work (and by the way, one out of four workers admits to making up fake excuses – at least they’re honest about lying):

1. While rowing across the river to work, I got lost in the fog.

2. Someone stole all my daffodils.

3. I had to go audition for American Idol.

4. My ex-husband stole my car so I couldn’t drive to work.

5. My route to work was shut down by a Presidential motorcade.

6. I wasn’t thinking and accidentally went to my old job.

7. I was indicted for securities fraud this morning.

8. The line was too long at Starbucks.

9. I was trying to get my gun back from the police.

10. I didn’t have money for gas because all of the pawn shops were

closed.

We appreciate someone trying to get a laugh, but when you use the ROWE mindset, none of these excuses are funny. Because there is no such thing as a good excuse, a bad excuse or an unusual excuse in a ROWE. The only thing that matters is whether or not the work is getting done.

When we’re trying to explain ROWE, we often talk about socially acceptable excuses and socially unacceptable excuses. Socially acceptable excuses are the most common: traffic, getting the kids ready, etc. Socially unacceptable excuses would be something like “drank too much last night and needed to sleep it off” or “the thought of coming in and doing this soul-stealing job had me nailed to the mattress as I hit the snooze bar repeatedly until the fear of getting fired motivated me to get out of bed.”

In all those cases, the person might come in a half hour or an hour late. In all of those cases, the person might have gone on to have a very productive day. The person may have even missed a meeting, but was still able to recover that lost experience and contribute to the bottom line. In the end, the nature of the excuse doesn’t really matter. In fact, many managers might even wonder if the excuses are even true.

Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine taking excuses entirely out of the workplace. Employees don’t give them. Managers don’t ask for them. What happens? Do people start coming in later and later and later? Or do they come in more or less at the same time? Are people more productive or less productive? Or the same?

Finally, we did find a ray of hope in the CareerBuilder article, which notes that “43 percent of hiring managers say they don’t mind if their employees are late as long as their work is completed on time with good quality.” We think this is great news for all of us who are passionate about ROWE. That means that almost half of the population generally believes that results are more important than time.

Maybe with a little work we could get that number north of fifty. We think that would be a change for the better.


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