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Late to work? It could get you fired

Unless you leave early every single morning, you'll eventually be late for work. Traffic happens, as do wardrobe malfunctions and flat tires. Even the most controlling boss will understand an occasional delay. But if tardiness becomes a regular occurrence, you could be reprimanded.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 29 percent of employers say they have no problem with the occasional late arrival, as long as it doesn't become a pattern, and 18 percent say they don't need employees to be punctual if they can still get their work done. But not all are that lenient. More than half of employers (53 percent) expect employees to be on time every day, and 4 in 10 (41 percent) have fired someone for being late.

But being late is not uncommon. When asked how often they come in late to work, more than 1 in 4 workers (29 percent) admitted they do it at least once a month — up from 25 percent last year — and 16 percent say it's a weekly occurrence for them — up 3 percentage points since last year — so employers are pretty used to hearing explanations for tardiness.

What's keeping you?

Most of the time it's traffic (49 percent), oversleeping (32 percent) or bad weather (26 percent). But occasionally, it's much more interesting. When asked about the most outrageous excuses employees have given them for being late, employers shared the following:

  • I forgot it wasn't the weekend.
  • I put petroleum jelly in my eyes.
  • I had to watch a soccer game that was being played in Europe.
  • I thought Flag Day was a legal holiday.
  • My pet turtle needed to visit the exotic animal clinic.
  • The wind blew the deck off my house.
  • I overslept because my kids changed all the clocks in the house.
  • I was cornered by a moose.
  • My mother locked me in the closet.
  • The pizza I ordered was late being delivered, and I had to be home to accept/pay for it.
  • The sunrise was so beautiful that I had to stop and take it in.
  • My mother-in-law wouldn't stop talking.
  • My dad offered to make me a grilled cheese sandwich, and I couldn't say no.

What should you do if you're running late?

The actions you take when you're late and after help your employer to decide whether to accept the tardiness and see you as a professional or not.

Things you should say when you're late to work:

  • "I would like to apologize for being 15 minutes late to work today."
  • "I'm very sorry I was 20 minutes late. My kid got sick as I was walking out the door, and I had to make arrangements."
  • "I know that this company values punctuality, and I will strive to be on time in the future."

As a rule of thumb, remember to be honest. Integrity is what every company wants. When you lie, you break that trust and that will upset an employer even more.

Things you should probably avoid saying:

Skip the reason if it is too silly or not work-appropriate. For instance, if you were late because you were fighting with a spouse, that's likely not something you want to share at work. It's better to not give an excuse than to lie.

Tweet at @CareerBuilder: How often are you late to work? Do you usually give an excuse?

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