The Best Excuses to Leave Work Early

At some point in your career, you will have to leave work early. After all, employees are people with obligations that cannot always be controlled or delegated to weekends and non-working hours.

In most cases, a reasonable supervisor will understand and grant a request to quit early or be late, provided your apology is legitimate, important, or urgent. It's usually not a big deal.

That being said, there are factors that can help improve your chances of getting out of work early. The company culture, your relationship with your manager, and your work history in terms of attendance and punctuality will all affect how an early departure is perceived by your employer. For example, some employers expect workers to call in early and stay late in the office to show their commitment, while others encourage employees to look after their wellbeing and maintain a good work-life balance.

In general, employees who are seen as committed by supervisors and colleagues are more likely to receive preferential treatment in the workplace and, in some cases, receive special privileges. This is why it's important to have a good relationship with your manager and always be on her good side.

Here are the best excuses to leave your work early without your request affecting your reputation as an employee.

Tips for asking your manager to leave work early

How you prematurely abandon your work also depends on how you receive your request. The best approach in many situations is to design your action as a request rather than simply letting your manager know that you will leave sooner.

It is helpful if you mention how your work will be covered during your absence, for example, if a colleague makes any inquiries. Providing an update for projects with upcoming deadlines can also ensure that your absence has minimal impact. If applicable, mention how you can make up for the time by working at home or by contributing promptly.

Depending on the personality of your supervisor, it can also help to assess how this is beneficial to your performance in the long term. For example: "If I take care of that dentist appointment now, I won't have to worry about it if we're busy with this big project next month."

Also, pay attention to when you want to leave early. If it's a slow week, your request will be more likely to be granted. Avoid asking to leave work early when your manager or team is stressed, overworked, or busy with an important project. 

If you are unsure about the best time to ask your manager for an early departure, try following these three steps:

  1. Keep in mind your performance in terms of punctuality and attendance at work. If it's good, then mention that if you leave early today or tomorrow, it will be much easier to catch up on Monday morning when there is less pressure than during the week. Also mention that this feat will pave the way for more flexibility when deadlines become critical later in the month – especially near the end of each quarter when many companies tighten their grip on employees' schedules (i.e., ask for shorter lunch breaks).
  2. Ask your manager to join you for coffee (or go out to lunch) one day after work.
  3. Then, when you're relaxed and casually enjoying a warm beverage, mention your schedule for next week or month and ask if it's possible to leave early on Friday. By this point, the positive nature of the conversation should ensure that you receive a positive response.

If you are asked to make up the time, simply explain that it is not possible with your schedule. If you feel that this will be a problem in the future, ask what can be done to ensure your commitment and attendance.

Good excuses to leave work early

While there are both legitimate and illegitimate excuses for quitting early, keep this in mind. Your employer's response will likely depend on your status as an employee rather than the reason you give.

The more times you try to go sooner, the harder it will be to do so without criticism, whether or not your reasons are valid. Ultimately, you should be honest about why you want or need to go early. While your company's culture matters, as long as you have a good reputation and your manager is a rational, empathetic person, he or she will understand the situation.

In the case that you have a more demanding or abusive boss, try to be as considerate as possible. Rather than leaving work early without asking, inform your manager of your plan and tactfully ask if it's okay to leave at a certain time due to an appointment, for example.

Your boss might not care about whatever reason you have, but you should still mention it so he or she can understand your intentions. Don't forget to remind him or her how much you appreciate the opportunity and trust given by letting you do this.

If even mentioning your plans will cause future problems with your employer, then lie – but keep in mind that bosses tend to be skeptical people who are good at their jobs because they can sense when something is wrong.

If you've been caught in the past, don't mention your previous lies. Instead, present a scenario that makes it much more realistic and try to stick as close to the truth as possible (for example: "I'm going out for drinks with friends, but I'll be right back.") You can also say that you've made prior arrangements with another coworker to take over some of your workloads during lunch so you can leave early one day this week – or simply invent such an arrangement. However, if there are no other coworkers who come to mind, then avoid mentioning anyone else who might be involved in this situation.

Also, remember that bosses aren't necessarily negative people by nature; they just want to make sure that everyone is giving their best to the company. So whatever you do, don't mention that this might be a regular occurrence; it should be an isolated incident, or at least not something you do regularly.

If your situation doesn't improve after discussing your reasons with your manager and letting him or her know how much you appreciate the opportunity, then it might be time to search for other opportunities. It will only become increasingly difficult to leave work early if your boss establishes higher benchmarks for you than he or she did before – even if those standards are subjective and unfair.

Keep in mind that long-term employment doesn't always ensure job security these days, so don't feel too bad about looking for a new job if you have to. At the very least, your current employer should understand why you're leaving if they care about their workers at all.

Best reasons to leave work early

  • Religious obligations or community work are among the best excuses to leave work early, for example, volunteering at an event hosted by a local non-profit community organization, especially if your organization sponsors volunteering. This is because this excuse implies doing something meaningful in your spare time; regardless, make sure to leave work early enough to get home and change before heading out.
  • Business networking activities, including attending a local Chamber of Commerce meeting or attending industry events or conventions (especially if networking with potential business partners is assessed by your employer). This gives the impression of doing actual work for your company but also working on strengthening connections. The best excuse to leave early is to attend special events that would otherwise be difficult to get into or where there are high-profile attendees.
  • Customer-related obligations, such as traveling to a customer assignment early the next day or an outing with an important customer. This clearly shows that you understand and care about your company's business and its success.
  • Training activities, such as attending a workshop or leaving a course early, or working on a group project for a course that your manager has encouraged you to take. This not only shows your manager that you are eager to take on new challenges but also demonstrates the ability to work well in a team.
  • Inquiries related to productivity, including working in a nearby coffee shop or library to focus, or after a very late evening in the office (when the work is done). This gives the impression of looking for ways to maximize productivity and also implies that you are tired after a long day in the office. Note: make sure to leave early enough to get home and change before heading out.
  • Employment-related activities, such as an interview when you have been informed of a future dismissal from your current employer. This shows the person in charge that your job search is serious, and also demonstrates your commitment to finding something better.
  • Family responsibilities are the best excuses to leave work early. These include sudden illness, accident, or death, or when you have to admit a child early, when their school closes early or when they are sick. Some workplaces may also allow you to leave earlier to take your child (or pet) to the doctor (or veterinarian).  The best excuse is to have an emergency, but not one so dramatic as if you had been in a car accident – something more along the lines of a home emergency, such as your child needing their inhaler.
  • Personal reasons: Illness, for example, or a condition like severe convulsions, migraines, allergic reaction, or a dental emergency like a root canal or a toothache.  This shows that you're in complete control and takes responsibility for your own well-being while also caring about your workplace. You can always add that this was a medical emergency to emphasize the urgency of the situation and prevent further questioning.
  • Doctor's appointments or medical tests can also be good reasons to leave the office before it closes, although you should try to schedule these events outside of business hours if possible. If you have to leave work early for a doctor's appointment, it can help to schedule the appointment before or after work, or during your lunch break, but there are no appointments available. You can then get a note from your doctor (or even the employee's own physician) that you were unable to reschedule and needed to leave early.
  • Emergency issues in your home, such as a burst pipe, broken stove, fire or burglary, or the delivery of furniture, appliances, or other items that require a signature and must take place during business hours.  This also shows that you know how to prioritize and handle important events. Note: if you know who is arriving or when something needs to be done, make sure it happens at the end of the day; otherwise, you can leave early and still come in late in order to take care of things.
  • Arguments with family members like spouses, children, or your parents over long-term issues like moving, where you're living now (and why), divorce, child support, things like that. This shows that you are serious about improving the situation and can be eager to resolve conflicts. You may even want to bring in evidence of the conflict by showing texts with your family members confirming an argument.
  • Employment-related events like seminars, conferences, training courses for professional development or certificates in your field, job fairs, and the arrival of new employees or interns. You can then say that you were eager to attend these events (and mention they are paid) in order to stand out among your colleagues (and apply for other jobs).

Most importantly, don't use your boss's flexibility. While there are legitimate and “good” reasons to leave early, a "good" reason that is used too often can quickly become problematic. If you foresee an inevitable event that will cause you to leave work repeatedly (e.g., a physical therapy appointment that repeats over the course of a month, a recurring child's doctor appointment, etc.) then you should ahead of time and prepare a plan to make sure your job is covered.

Ultimately, if you only need to make a requirement when it's valid or necessary, the best way to ensure that you can leave work early is to make sure you don't have to. Make an effort to do your best and be sure to have a positive relationship with your boss and be honest if something requires your presence during work hours. The better you are with your boss, the more likely you are to going to ask for an excuse to leave work early.

To sum up

There are many reasons to leave work early, but the best excuse to leave work early is to have a positive relationship with your boss.


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