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I'm sure everyone has had a day where something came up which caused them to be late for work. Of course, you let your employer know as soon as possible and then you arrive.

The question comes up, asked directly or indirectly, "why were you late"?

I admitted that.. "I wasn't feeling well this morning." Which is kind of a strange reason to be only about 45 minutes late.

The next question is probably just meant to see if I'm okay now, and whether I should be at work, "You have a stomach-ache or...?"

It felt wrong to admit to that, because I may be sent home, but I also was fairly embarrassed about the reason for being late. I decided to tell the truth, though I really didn't want too.

"I had diarrhea."


Should I not be uncomfortable sharing that kind of information? How should I have responded in the most professional manner? In general, how do you avoid having to tell your manager an embarrassing reason for being late?

I could have stated, "I had a personal issue," but in my opinion that leaves too many questions - like whether it will affect my work and whether this unknown issue is going to continue.

  • 3
    "Let me spare you the uncomfortable details, but I assure you I'm 100% fit now." - if you noticed someone was longer in the bathroom than normal, would you really want him/her to give you a play by play description of what went on?? And you said it happened only once! If he presses you you could say let's just say I had to spend longer than normal in my bathroom before I came to work. – Brandin Mar 10 '15 at 20:55
  • Couldn't you invent an old-school excuse? Like a train breakdown? Alarm clock not setting? Police pulling you over for additional checks on your car? Unusual congestion? Sickness of your partner/children? Whatever it applies? This should be the answer anyway – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Aug 28 '17 at 15:46
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I would probably have said "upset stomach" or "touch of stomach flu" or "a bad reaction to something I ate" rather than naming the symptom, but more importantly added "but it's all fine now." If you're vague, your boss is likely to assume you just slept in or were hungover or something. Therefore being specific, even when it's embarrassing, is appropriate. You can, however, use a euphemism while being specific.

I want to know why you're late for a bunch of reasons - are you getting fed up with this job and don't like coming to it? are you likely to perform below par today and is that something I need to react to? are you likely to infect the rest of the team if I let you stay? is this a chance for me to treat you like a human and show some compassion, increasing my "retention" of you? - and alas "I didn't feel well" or "it was a personal thing" don't help me on that front at all. So take a big breath and get your situation across to me, either using a medical word or in some other way ensuring I understand what you dealt with.

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Nobody really wants to know the details.

Sorry I'm late, I wasn't feeling well. Believe me, you don't want to know the details.

That should normally be enough to not invite any further questions.

  • Don't push on "the details". Gossipy people may ask. Be formal, be friendly. That's my opinion – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Aug 28 '17 at 15:44
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Saying that you had diarrhea could be embarrassing, although there is not once of us who hasn't had diarrhea. We've all had food poisoning, we've all have eaten something that we should not have eaten. Once, a colleague casually mentioned to me that I was 45 minutes late that morning. I said "that's because I was pushing my head into the toilet bowl at 4 AM and spending the next two hours throwing up", And I said, twisting the knife "Thanks for asking" To which he replied with a smirk, "Thanks for sharing this with us!" :)

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