Thinking of calling out? 6 things not to say, according to hiring managers who’ve heard them

Calling out is especially difficult to do if you have to call out for a seemingly ridiculous reason that you just know your manager is going to question.

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Calling out of work is inevitably kind of awkward. You never want to seem unprofessional or as though you’re totally lying to get out of having to “adult” for the day. But calling out is especially difficult to do if you have to call out for a seemingly ridiculous reason that you just know your manager is going to question.


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The truth is that managers have heard all of the grown-up versions of “my dog ate my homework.” Whether these are truths or made-up excuses, we asked them to share the most cringeworthy “I’m calling out” messages they’ve ever received — and here’s what they had to offer.

1. Mixed-up days

“As a director of operations, I have heard every calling out excuse in the book — and most of these far surpass the middle school ‘the dog ate my homework’ line,” says Dana Case, director of operations of MyCorporation.com. “Two, in particular, stand out. Once, I was told by an employee that they woke up and thought it was Saturday. It was actually Wednesday. Another employee once said they couldn’t make it into work because they spilled their coffee walking out the door. I mean, once that happens the day is basically over — right?”

2. Broken bones

“One morning I received a call from an employee that he had fallen down a steep flight of stairs on his way to the office and had broken his hand — he explained he couldn’t come into the office since he was going to the emergency room for X-rays,” says Jared Weitz, CEO and founder of United Capital Source Inc. “Later that afternoon, I received a call from a competing business asking about this specific employee. Turns out, he had interviewed for a job there that morning and they were looking for a reference. The next day, when the employee wasn’t in the hospital, we asked him to come in for a meeting. During the conversation, he was standing next to a chair and leaning on the ‘broken’ hand the entire time without even realizing it. Needless to say, this employee no longer works for us.”

3. Calling out slick

“I am a human resources officer, and the craziest calling out story I have is from a police department customer,” says Sarah Torres-Ferrick. “The officer called out before his shift saying that he was sick. There was nothing out of the ordinary, until we received a complaint from an officer that had to work overtime due to the call out. The officer that called out sick posted on Facebook ‘called out slick today.’ He was friends with his fellow police officers and they did not appreciate him ‘calling out slick’ and making them work overtime.”

4. Backup help

“A few weeks ago, we heard a knock at our office door at 7 a.m. and, to our surprise, it was a new employee’s boyfriend,” says Trisha Lake, owner and CEO of TLC Cleaning LLC. “He came in and sat down to explain our employee was not feeling well and was nervous to call in and ‘get yelled at.’ He explained to us that he decided to come in, and we could yell at him. We kindly explained our policy on call-offs while also mentioning it is never appropriate for this to happen again. Very strange situation.”

5. Unknown holidays

“We had an employee last year who called out my business partner and I for not giving everyone paid time off for ‘Nevada Day,'” says Matthew Ross, the co-owner and COO of The Slumber Yard. “I had never even heard of it before, but I guess it’s a holiday that commemorates the state’s admission to the Union. The employee was really upset we didn’t give everybody the day off. She made a big announcement in front of everyone saying she couldn’t believe how selfish my business partner and I were. It was very odd. After her outburst, I called a few friends who work for various companies in the Reno area, and they didn’t have the day off either. It turns out pretty much no private companies in the state give their employees the day off, which made the whole situation even more bizarre.”

6. Bad hair days

“Back when I was an exec in the hospitality industry, we had a mid-level manager in her late 30s call out ‘because she was having a bad hair day,'” says Joni Holderman, founder of Thrive! Resumes. “It wasn’t a hair color fiasco or a truly tragic haircut… her hair just wouldn’t do what she wanted it to that day (which is the story of my life).”

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A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.


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Annamarie Houlis via Fairygodboss|is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel