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I worked abroad for half my career and always worked Labor Day weekend in the States as a contractor.

I totally was unaware it was not September 1st and blew off Friday. My job recently claimed my work was excellent but claim my lack of team communication needed to be fixed. Two days later I blow off Friday without telling anyone.

How do I effectively explain being unaware of Labor Day to my co-worker without giving a bad impression or sounding ignorant? Especially since my coworkers are foreign and I was born/raised here.

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    I find it hard to understand your post. I thought when you said you were working abroad, you meant you were working in the USA, and you are now back in your home country. For most countries, Labour Day would be May 1, which was 4 months ago, and not something you could be "confused" about. Even if you somehow confused it with USA's Labour Day, that's on the 1st Monday of September, not Friday, so I am confused what your confusion was. If the Labour Day in your home country is 1 September or some other date, please clarify that in the post. Mentioning the country name is also useful. – Masked Man Sep 4 '17 at 17:53
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    I think it is ironic you missed labour day by not being at work – Ed Heal Sep 4 '17 at 19:29
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    Anyone who's worked abroad knows that some countries will not move the Bank holiday, E.g. France. This could be an easy mistake to make if you've been out of the US for some time – Draken Sep 5 '17 at 8:30
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    @TheMathemagician The OP was aware of Labor Day but had the date wrong. Labor Day is always the first Monday of September, but OP thought it was always September 1st. – David K Sep 5 '17 at 13:14
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    @cdkMoose Never left the keys at home when you left the house then? That's somethign that you have to do on a daily basis, but people make mistakes. They think they have them, they think they've done everything correctly and then oops! People make mistakes – Draken Sep 5 '17 at 15:44
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How do I explain being unaware of labor day to my co-worker with out sounding like an idiot.

The truth is pretty much always the best explanation.

Sometimes it won't prevent folks from forming an impression of you that you would rather avoid. But that impression can fade with time as long as you avoid similar gaffes.

Usually self-deprecation told with a laugh is very easily forgiven.

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    yes, no other options really – Kilisi Sep 4 '17 at 21:15
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    If you're looking for phrasing examples, something like "In hindsight it seems silly, but I was somehow convinced that labor day is always on the first of September. I guess I learned this one the hard way!" – Cronax Sep 11 '17 at 13:17
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You screwed up. You know that, so that's a good first step. I agree with Joe S on the first thing to do: tell them honestly what you did.

But to go forward, you need more than that, since this wasn't the first kind of problem related to your communications (and this certainly is, as your question suggests). You need to show that you are going to fix this.

What kinds of things do you do to proactively prevent this from being a problem, in the future? Come October 12, let's say you accidentally think it's Thanksgiving (perhaps you're Canadian) and don't come in to work. What can you do, now, to make that less likely to happen, and less of an issue? Here are some suggestions, but you should do whatever fits best in your corporate culture.

  • Tell your coworkers how to contact you, outside of work. Cell phone, text, whatever. Hopefully they already know this, but make sure.
  • Use the calendar feature in Outlook (or whatever you all use internally), and use it for everything. Put all of your time off in there, even if it's just an hour or two. And even if it's a holiday. Then share that with the office.
  • Send out "time off" emails. Email the folks that you would expect to communicate daily with (or weekly, if you mostly work alone) a few days before every time off, to let them know how to contact you or who else to contact during your time off.
  • If you have status meetings, mention time off including holidays during each one, up to the next one.

Whatever mitigation options you can come up with - mention those in the email. (And do some of them first, before you send the email, so it's not just "promises" but real action.) Send the email to everyone that was affected by it, not just your manager.

Here's an example.

Hi folks,

I was out Friday due to a confusion as to what day Labor Day was. I'm very sorry that I got that wrong, and didn't double check which day it was. I hope that it didn't cause too much difficulty for anyone, and I'll do my best to fix any problems that came about as a result so that my absence won't cause any significant delays or issues.

I have updated my outlook calendar with all time off, including holidays, based on the corporate calendar available [here]. I will keep this up to date in the future, so that this kind of mistake doesn't happen again, and to make it easier for you all to know where I am.

If ever I am not in the office and you need to get ahold of me for any reason, you can call or text my cell at (555)555-5555, or contact my manager, Jane Black.

Again, my apologies for the mistake. I will do better in the future.

Thanks,

Deek

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How do I effectively explain being unaware of Labor Day to my co-worker without giving a bad impression or sounding ignorant?

Not sure you can, you went AWOL without a valid reason which many would see as a fireable issue.

If communications weren't an issue you would know something of what they were doing on the holiday, and them of what you are doing, so the misunderstanding would have been apparent before it happened. This will just highlight the issue even further and may lead to further repercussions.

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    Not knowing anything about the people or the culture at OP's work, I thought this answer was a little harsh or overbearing, but the last paragraph is actually tremendously important and accurate. The worst thing to ever do is confirm a negative impression and, well, even with an honest mistake, that's often what ends up happening. – A.fm. Sep 10 '17 at 17:36
  • I wouldn't want to work for any employer who would fire someone just because they didn't turn up one day, without hearing why. – Simon B Sep 11 '17 at 21:52
  • No, as bad as an AWOL is, the OP has said the employer has raised communication issues, and what is this? It's a pattern which may be acted on. If someone on my team went AWOL I'd give them a chance to explain, but I would have also attempted to reach them when they didn't appear. The fact they didn't says volumes about their feelings unfortunately. – The Wandering Dev Manager Sep 11 '17 at 22:34
  • Even in retail we didn't fire people for one no-call-no-show; it took two or three, depending on the frequency. But the last paragraph, for sure. – Joe Sep 11 '17 at 22:41
  • @Simon B No call No Show is about the worst thing you can do at most jobs. – A. McDaniel Sep 12 '17 at 0:11
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How do I effectively explain being unaware of Labor Day to my co-worker without giving a bad impression or sounding ignorant?

You can not. There were plenty of controls available to make sure you knew what days were holidays, and what days were expected work days. While it may be understandable what happened here, it is not excusable.

So the best strategy is to avoid even trying to make excuses or try to explain why beyond saying you thought it was a holiday. What is most important now is: what are you going to do to make sure nothing even remotely similar happens again? You need to come up with a plan to convince your employer that you are serious about making sure that you improve. That plan needs to demonstrate that.

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