How to tell your boss you can't work today

Updated on January 28, 2023
How to tell your boss you can't work today

Here I am at home, not feeling well or dealing with a sudden emergency, and I am thinking about two things: how to cope with the situation, and how to tell my boss that I won’t be coming to work today. Sounds familiar?

The best advice that I can give you when you are about to tell your boss that you won’t be working today is this: be honest. Plainly explain what you are dealing with and why it is preventing you from showing up at work.

Honesty, openness, and trust are essential components of a harmonious work environment. That is why the best way to go about this situation is to tell your boss the truth.

And here’s the thing, bosses and managers are human, too. You should have every expectation to be excused and forgiven if you have not broken the trust between you and your boss before.

So if you can’t work today, I have prepared for you some useful tips on how to minimize the impact so let’s look into it.

Tips on how to tell your boss you can't come to work today

Tips on how to tell your boss you can't come to work today

If you can't go to work today because you are dealing with something important or urgent, then here is what you can do to minimize the impact this will have on your job and the relationship with your boss.

Just follow these 6 simple steps.

1. Contact your boss as soon as possible

It's important to contact the people you work with as soon as possible. This way they will be able to adjust to the situation and make arrangements for your absence.

Maybe somebody else will be able to take over your duties?

2. Explain what you are dealing with

When you talk or text your boss, start with an explanation of what is going on with you. It's important to convey that you are going through something serious.

There is no need to go into detail, you can simply say that it is personal, health-related, or a family matter.

3. Apologize and state you won’t be able to come to work

Say that you are sorry but you won't be able to come to work today because of your serious situation. By presenting things this way, you should expect to be excused and told to take care.

4. Ask a coworker to cover for you

Maybe there is somebody who can take care of some of your key responsibilities? If there is a colleague that you can trust, talk to them, explain the situation, and ask them to cover for you.

In case all goes well and you are covered, make sure to share this detail with your boss.

5. Stay in touch

You can say to your boss that you will keep them updated. Tell them that you will message them to confirm that you will be able to come to work tomorrow.

And tell them if it is okay for them to call you in case they need some work-related information.

6. Compensate when you return

Every time I wasn't able to go to work because of personal circumstances, I made sure to compensate by catching up with my work. I advise you to do the same.

This way your boss and your colleagues will know that you are diligent, reliable, and hard-working.

How to tell your boss you can't work tomorrow

What about if you can’t go to work the next day? Again, I say to you that honesty is your best friend. Let’s say you have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. I mean, that’s a respectable reason, right?

So once again, simply contact your boss as soon as possible and plainly explain the situation. You can follow the steps that I have outlined above.

If you have a good reason for not showing up at work tomorrow, then you will be excused by your boss and coworkers.

As I like to say, always assume good intentions. So put yourself in the shoes of your boss. What would you do and how would you react if one of your trusted employees told you that they won’t be able to go to work tomorrow because they are dealing with something serious?

A kind and understanding person will always put people and their well-being first. They would probably tell you not to worry about it and focus on dealing with your situation.

After all, being productive is a byproduct of well-being. So get well, cope with your situation, and get back to work when possible. In the worst possible case, you can ask your employer for some unpaid time off.

But what if your boss reacts badly to the news that you won’t be able to make it to work tomorrow? That would be pretty toxic of them, wouldn’t it? You might want to go over the signs of a toxic work environment.

How to call out of work while at work

How to call out of work while at work

Here’s another situation that is very likely to happen during the course of your life: you are at work but you receive a phone call or a text message – it looks like something came up and it requires your immediate attention. Now what?

If it is a serious emergency, there is no need to ponder over how to call off work. By all means, just go and don’t worry about what your boss or your coworkers will think.

For example, what if a family member is in trouble and needs your help? Just go and deal with the situation as best as you can’t and leave the explanations for later.

Maybe you can quickly tell something to the person nearest to you on your way out? If possible, text your boss or a coworker when you have the chance.

After all, the people you work with will probably be worried as well.

Usually, storming out of a workplace during work hours is a sign that the person is dealing with something serious. So inform your workplace about your situation as soon as you can.

Reasons for not showing up at work that are respectable

Employers expect that every now and then, things will come up that will prevent their workers from showing up at work. Here are at least 5 reasons that should be respected by every boss.

  • Family emergency
  • Traffic accident
  • Medical appointment
  • Illness
  • Injury

Some companies have internal policies that address situations in which a worker will be prevented from going to work.

Even if your company doesn’t have such a policy, you can be sure that the situations outlined above are within the norm and you should be excused. Keep in mind that you can always ask a coworker to cover for you.

You need a personal day off. Now what?

You might be wondering what happens if your reason for not going to work does not fall in one of the so-called “acceptable” categories. What if, let’s say, you just don’t feel like working today?

Maybe things have been tough at work and you could really use a day off to stay sane.

Maybe there is something really fun that you want to do.

Well, I will be the first to say that you should absolutely never lie to your boss if you need a personal day off work.

You might lie to your boss once or twice and get a pass but if this continues and every week you come up with random reasons and last-minute “emergencies” that you have to deal with, your boss and colleagues will get suspicious quickly.

So my advice to you is to never abuse the trust between you and your boss. Instead, go see them in person – here is how to ask your boss for a day off. Just be honest and they are very likely to meet you halfway.

The importance of honesty at work

As I already mentioned, some of the pillars of a healthy work environment are honesty, openness, and trust. If you truly care about your job and the people you work with, then you should always put your best foot forward in everything that you do.

And this applies to not being able to go to work as well, no matter the circumstances. The goal here is to minimize the impact your absence will have on your workplace. Make this a part of your mindset. Here are 3 things to focus on.

  • Do not feel guilty. When disaster and urgency strike, there is very little we can do.
  • Keep calm. And focus on dealing with your situation, this way you will return to work sooner.
  • Be responsible. And show your boss that you are responsible by being truthful.

Key takeaways

  • When telling your boss you can’t work today, be honest about what is going on.
  • Illness, injury, and family emergency are some of the most common acceptable reasons for not going to work.
  • If you have a respectable reason for not going to work, you will be excused by your boss and coworkers.
  • Don’t turn not going to work every now and then into a habit, this will very quickly agitate your boss and you will lose their trust.
Written by:
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galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Alex has been an office worker for more than 10 years. He is dedicated to helping other office workers to achieve the perfect life-work balance through well-being, effective communication, and building productive habits.

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