As the title says, I went home earlier today because I feel ill.

I got back from holiday on Monday and I'm really struggling with jetlag. This combined with the jitters of my first day at a new job, meant that I didn't sleep at all last night.

I showed up to work and went around and met everyone, and sat down to start reading all their procedures. A few pages in I realised I'm just too exhausted to continue, and I excused myself and told them I had to go home to get some sleep.

How can I best handle this? I feel terrible and I don't want them to get an idea I'm some flaky person. I'm planning on showing up early tomorrow morning and get on with it, and apologise to my manager for going home early.

Are there any other ways I can limit the damage done by my early departure?

Update: just to clarify a few things, I got back from holiday on Monday and arranged to start on Wednesday to give myself some time to recover from the jetlag. I've done this trip before, and had the same amount of time to rest and I was fine. I think the combination of jetlag and the fact I was nervous for my new job caused the extreme lack of sleep. As I mentioned in the comments, in hindsight I should have just started next week, so I have more time rest.

In the end, I apologised to my manager and colleague and they were very understanding. I offered to take the day as unpaid leave and were gonna sort something along those lines. Ironically, I ended up barely sleeping again last night, because I was more nervous than ever because of the situation I put myself in. This time I pulled through and I'm making sure I go to sleep at a normal time to get my sleep schedule under control as fast as possible. Thank you all for your input!

  • How much earlier? An hour? 3? 5?
    – DonQuiKong
    May 23, 2018 at 17:58
  • 8
    "I don't want them to get an idea I'm some flaky person". Too late. If you dig in, take work seriously from now on, and are competent, this initial opinion will turn around after a month or so. You can't fix what you did, but you can eventually show that it was a anomaly (if it in fact was). May 25, 2018 at 10:57
  • 1
    How mich jet lag are we talking about here? And do your colleagues know this amount? If you were coming back from say China to the US, then its understandable, but if was just like a cross-country trip then their impression of you might be worse.
    – GHP
    May 25, 2018 at 12:49

8 Answers 8


Nerves are understandable, but you should really have placed yourself in a position to be refreshed and ready for action on your first day.

There's not much you can do about it now except for turning up tomorrow, being more confident and being seen to get on with the job in hand.

You've already stated that this is due to tiredness after a long flight, so don't change your story on this.

Sorry for yesterday, I was more affected by jet-lag than I thought I would be. I'm ready and eager to get back to work now.

Put this behind you, buckle down, and get to work. You can't change whatever impression you've got on your first day, but you can change things from day two onward.

  • 3
    Thanks for the your answer. I know, the whole point is I gave myself a few days to rest, I didn't expect it to take this long to get back into my normal rhythm. In hindsight I should have started next week. Oh well, I shall apologise tomorrow and reiterate I just didn't sleep enough and now I'm feeling fine and can get back to work.
    – JimBob
    May 23, 2018 at 10:52
  • Rest up for now. Work your way through tomorrow and then rest up at the weekend (assuming you don't work at the weekends).
    – user44108
    May 23, 2018 at 10:53
  • 34
    @JimBob Actually, what you said in that comment is probably a good thing to say to your boss: "Sorry boss, I gave myself a few days to get over the jetlag, but it doesn't seem to have been enough. I didn't expect to still be feeling the effects by now - in hindsight I should have left it another week. I spent yesterday resting and got an early night and I feel much better now, so I'm ok to get back to work". May 23, 2018 at 20:16
  • Make sure you have plenty of coffee or energy drinks!!
    – Phil M
    May 23, 2018 at 22:06
  • "I'm ready and eager" sounds a bit forced to me, but "I'm ready" would be fine Oct 1, 2018 at 2:55

I don't want them to get an idea I'm some flaky person.

Too late for that so don't worry about it. Unfortunately first impressions are important so you need to get a better impression of your commitment and ability asap.

Don't even be late again for the foreseeable future and concentrate on your work until you have established some credibility as a worker.

  • Of course, I realise I now have to show it's just a one off and not who I am! Thanks for the input.
    – JimBob
    May 23, 2018 at 11:44
  • 4
    @JimBob mandatory dilbert strip May 23, 2018 at 18:04
  • Maybe dont take holidays returning the day before you start work... fly home on the friday for example, rather than the sunday (common sense really, especially for a new job :) May 25, 2018 at 9:36

I suggest the heads-on approach: Be there early tomorrow. Ask your manager if he has time to talk to you for a minute. Tell him something along the lines:

I just wanted to apologize again for leaving early yesterday. I know this does make a really bad impression. I just wanted you to know this was an exception and you can count on me from hereon.

Oh, and then, of course - live up to it!

That way you show awareness, honesty and initiative. You are also in a stronger position if you raise this yourself as opposed to explaining yourself after somebody else raised this to you.

  • This comes across pretty poorly to me. I don't think there's anything to be gained by trying to convince the boss when he has no reason to take you at your word -- and when it's exactly what an actually flaky person would do. I'd keep it to just a "Sorry I needed to leave early yesterday; I'm feeling a lot better today!" and let my actions going forward speak to the rest. May 23, 2018 at 20:00
  • 1
    @MatthewRead: He has every reason to take him at his word. He never lied about anything.
    – user541686
    May 23, 2018 at 20:23
  • 2
    @Matthew Read: That was what my former Boss expected from an employee who turned in sick in the first few weeks to not immediately fire him afterwards.And we got a lot of these since it was a larger call-centre which typically have a high personnel turnover. The point is to show awareness how you come across and make it clear that this is not your normal work-ethic.
    – Daniel
    May 24, 2018 at 22:58
  • 1
    That sounds like a terrible boss and also a counter-productive policy. Aside from the stupidity of firing an employee for being sick (which may be illegal in some jurisdictions,) it encourages people to show up when they're contagious. That's not "good work ethic." It's simply being inconsiderate to your fellow employees and also likely causing even more loss of work for the employer. I'm, of course, assuming here that the sickness is legitimate and not an acute case of wanting to spend the day at the lake instead of at work.
    – reirab
    May 25, 2018 at 6:41
  • @reirab: I know it sounds that way but if you see the other side it actually makes sense. What you get with these low-skill, high-fluctuation kind of jobs is a broad mix of employees, some of which don´t really want to work, (So-called job nomads). After 10 years of operation you could see clearly in the statistics that ~90% of those who reported sick in the first few days did also loose money in the long run. This will not apply the same to high-skilled jobs, of course but you may still have a boss that thinks that way, so better be sure - no harm in apologising ...
    – Daniel
    May 25, 2018 at 7:19

How screwed am I?

Wrong question. Right question is "how do I handle this to minimize any damage". Whenever you screw up at work, you should do the following

  1. Be open and own up to it right away, just stick with the facts and don't sugarcoat anything or be overly dramatic either.
  2. Offer something that you can do to mitigate the impact.

So in this case, you can say to your boss. "Hey Boss, sorry about yesterday. unexpectedly I turned into a jet leg zombie and wasn't in shape to work at the level I expect from myself, especially on my first day. That was my fault and I'd be happy to make up the gap on my own time in whatever way I can. I'd appreciate any suggestions on what I can do to make this up"

  • Thanks for the input. That's some good advice, puts me in the right mindset. I was planning on saying something along the lines you mentioned and offering to take the day as unpaid leave.
    – JimBob
    May 23, 2018 at 11:46
  • 2
    Your advise on what to say seems right on point to me. What I like about it is the frank honesty and more importantly ownership along with asking for input as to what can be done. If I were the boss, I would laugh and tell the OP not to worry about it. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    May 24, 2018 at 3:21
  • @closetnoc: that's indeed the desired (and most likely) outcome !
    – Hilmar
    May 24, 2018 at 13:44

One person that I think you need to apologize to specifically is the coworker that was responsible for onboarding you yesterday. Preparing to onboard a new employee takes time, and unless that coworker does exclusively onboarding, they likely needed to rearrange their schedule to accommodate you yesterday. By leaving early, it could look like you don't respect their time.

It may be excessive to apologize for this directly, as I think other apologies (like the one from Snow) are sufficient. However, I would make a concerted effort to demonstrate to this coworker that you do in fact value their time, and that you won't waste it again in the future.

This could be as simple as the language you use today. Something like:

Hey coworker, I really appreciate you spending your time helping me get started, it means a lot.

It doesn't need to be excessive, but may help mend that relationship.


I wouldn't apologize. They already know you went home, why bring it up again?

Just work hard and be there when your team needs you. That's all. I think you are fine and overthinking this.

  • This is terrible advice. If I had hired someone and they went home on the first day without apologizing when they came back, they would be fired the next day. Edit - This may be a cultural specific answer, but I am not sure what cultures this may apply to.
    – David
    May 24, 2018 at 3:39
  • 2
    @David Sounds like a pretty terrible way to treat your employees, especially in the first week of the job. I don't see why the OP needs to apologise again the next day when they (presumably) already apologised while asking permission to go home early. If they just disappeared from the office without telling anyone or just walked off without seeking permission ("Boss, I am going home now."), then of course, I would completely agree with you.
    – Masked Man
    May 24, 2018 at 11:18
  • 2
    At my job, it is incredibly challenging to hire good people and employee happiness is super important. I would do the opposite: if an employee of mine went home on the first day I would have a discussion with them about how we all have off days, the importance of being OK with making mistakes as long as they are learning experiences and that they shouldn't be stressed about it. The last thing I would do is put them in a position where they're afraid. I'd only fire/promote based on their performance. Your perspective isn't wrong - just noting other fields/cultures where things are different. May 26, 2018 at 12:17
  • You both have good points, but as the employee I would say it is far better to explain that this is not normal. The apology the second day would reinforce that.Saying that, I am British and we do tend to apologize for everything.
    – David
    May 27, 2018 at 16:35

Don't judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes

They will either understand the situation or they won't, but you can't change that or control it. Anyone who's been through what you have will understand, and anyone with a sense of decency will also understand.

Go home and get some much needed rest.

In the morning, try to remember that you'll still be feeling lag. So try to take it easy on yourself. Let people know that you're feeling lagged and it'll take some time to recover.

The exact same thing happen to me. I travelled 18 hours to start a new job and had to go from the airport to the office on my first day. I just crashed and burned. I can tell you that under those circumstances you don't make sound decisions. So you're far better off avoiding the office if you can't concentrate.

The lag will cloud your judgement. So it's better to free yourself from the lag.

  • 1
    "Don't judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes". This is a good plan to follow because when you judge them: 1. They are a mile away 2. You've got their shoes. May 25, 2018 at 17:34

There is little reason to go into specifics regarding illness. If you are ill, state that you are feeling ill and need to leave. All positions I have had allowed a set number of hours for sick leave. As for tonight, it may be best to take some relaxants to adjust sleep schedule.

  • 1
    Although it might affect your performance the same way, things like jet lag or hangover are often not considered as being ill in this sense. So in some places this might not be a good choice.
    – JiK
    May 25, 2018 at 11:40

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .