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Are you your boss’s chief excuse-maker?

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Question: “My boss is notorious for running late for meetings, being out of touch when he’s supposedly working at home, forgetting about appointments … I’m often the only one who knows the real reasons for these problems, and they’re rarely good ones, so it falls to me sometimes to make an excuse. I sense that people see through me when I do. What can I possibly say in these situations when I’m a lousy liar but I don’t want to make my otherwise good boss seem like a mess?” – Frazzled, San Mateo, Ca.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Van May 8, 2015 at 11:28 am

Yes, Never make excuses. One of my bosses asked me to lie for him and tell someone that he was not there in office when he was right in front of me. I responded by telling my boss I did not feel comfortable doing that. And if I was that type of person that would lie for him , I could also lie to him., Which I am neither. My boss got the message that I am trustworthy, and not a liar.

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Lisa May 8, 2015 at 8:38 am

It is OK if you are not a good liar since that is not a good quality to have anyway. Never lie for anyone, not even your boss. It is not your responsibility to know where he is at all times. Coworkers know what your boss is like. They know his style so they know you are making excuses for him. Don’t do it and never lie.

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Susie May 7, 2015 at 5:20 pm

I agree with the above posts and would offer the following –

In the past I also worked for an executive that was ‘notorious’ for the no show – in order for my own credibility to stay intact I made sure to get in front of the problem.

Everything from being the time keeper when he was in the office (‘excuse me, your xyz meeting starts in 5 minutes) to connecting call when he was offsite (dialing him directly etc). The moment I realized he was offsite I would be sure to follow up on the days meetings to see what he was not going to make and then I would re-schedule. This often went over much better than trying to re-schedule after he had already missed it.

Although this was a bit more work on my part it was infinitely better than being caught out on not knowing what to say when he pulled a no-show – the other employees also appreciated my candor and tact (never offering any excuse….just simply stating the fact – he can’t make it today) and I felt better knowing my reputation was ‘safe’ and actually elevated in the eyes of my associates and my boss.

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Laura May 7, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Don’t lie and don’t make excuses. You don’t just work for your boss; ultimately you work for the company and you need to be seen as reliable and honest no matter who your supervisor is. Simply apologize for the inconvenience and offer to reschedule appts that were set up as 1:1. Redirect intense questioning to your boss.

Follow up with your boss kindly — everyone has shortcomings. Maybe this is one of the areas they need your help most – organizing their day. Work together to identify ways to improve their schedule. Do they need more time between appointments to document follow up tasks or for a personal break? Should mtgs with certain people/subjects be given longer time blocks? Over estimate travel time to allow for traffic, meetings that run over, etc. Offer to block some admin time on their calendar to catch up on tasks that might need attention.

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Sally May 7, 2015 at 4:32 pm

I agree with Marty. Your boss should not expect you to make his excuses. I’d say he’s unable to make it or you’ll remind him of the meeting, appointment, etc. If he’s not going to attend, merely tell them that. It’s no reflexion on you what he does or how he acts.

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Trisha May 7, 2015 at 4:30 pm

I agree with Marty. Never make up excuses and never lie. This only makes YOU look bad. If you are pressed for details on your boss’s whereabouts, say s/he is unavailable and you are not at liberty to divulge such information. Then offer to leave word that so-and-so is trying to reach him/her and leave it at that. That’s about all you can do.

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Lisa May 7, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Your boss will not learn if you make excuses for him. He is an adult and needs to take responsibility for his actions. It probably seems like you look bad also but by letting him “fall” means growth for both of you.

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Nell Sylte May 7, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Food for thought

Your integrity is at stake when you lie. You could address this issue with your manager by letting him/her how you feel when you are put in a situation where you have to make excuses or tell lies. If you never address the situation it may never change. If addressed and it still does not change then that persons manager needs to be advised of the situation.
Some time ago I mentioned to one of the folks that I supported that it also reflects negatively on me when I accept a meeting invite that says you are attending and you don’t show up. He was very thankful and said he had never looked at in that way. The situation did change.

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Marty May 7, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Never make up excuses. Unavailable at this time, unable to take your call or unable see you at this time, out of the office… Reply that you will contact your boss and give them contact information for the inquiring party – and let it go at that. You are your bosses support person, not their mother or their babysitter.

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