You may think this column stinks, and you may be 100 percent right, but it’s not my fault. The time I should have spent polishing my perspective and perfecting my prose was taken up in caring for Chirpy, my budgie, who is not at all well. He is listless and depressed and shows no interest in grooming.
Wait a minute — I’m describing myself. But you get the idea. When there is trouble between a man and his budgie, to expect good work is simply cruel.
If you find yourself unmoved by my excuse, you’ve grasped the point of this column and “Excuses are like…” — a recent post on Cheddar Day. (Note: the workplace website provides no information on the author of the piece, other than crediting “admin.” Showing my investigative reporter chops, I checked with a frequent contributor to cheese-focused workplace websites, Eleanor Admin, and she says she was busy with her pet budgie, Flappy. Is this the truth or an excuse? You decide.)
Whoever did write the post made the thrust of the piece about how making excuses is bad for your career, though perfectly understandable considering that you are a fearful, anxiety-ridden loser.
“There is a sense of fear for not having validation for why you were unable to do something,” the anonymous author suggests. “Fear drives a small sense of panic. The panic leads to a desire to explain yourself and rationalize your actions. And this rationalization of action results in an excuse.”
In other words, the need to make excuses proves you are not only a bad employee, but a bad person, as well.
You are also delusional. “We are the ones who think others want or care what happened. But the truth is, other people really do not care. If they do, they will ask you.”
The need to generate excuses starts in childhood. You are invited to think back to when you got in trouble climbing a fence. “Tommy told me to do it!” you blurt out. This response creates a habit that continues in the workplace.
The solution? Be honest. When you are caught climbing the fence of your CEO’s country estate, don’t say, “Tommy made me do it,” not unless Tommy is the head of HR and has tasked you to photograph the high jinks at your CEO’s spa. (Just in case, keep the photos. They may come in handy after Tommy is fired.)
One negative outcome from making excuses is that “excuses eliminate trust.” Come late to a meeting one too many times, and no amount of broken-down cars and broken-down grannies will keep people from eventually distrusting your word and your character.
And because your word is worthless and you have no character, this is not good.
Excuses can also give you a reputation as an employee who tends to throw others “under the bus.” Consider poor Tommy from the example above. Your decision to blame your failures on other members of your team will give you a reputation as someone no one wants to work with.
This is not all bad, of course. People wanting to work with you can really mess up your nap schedule. If you do want to be perceived as a “team player,” blame any and all mistakes on the IT department. No one wants to work with them.
The post concludes with specific advice on how to stop making excuses.
The first step is to “stop asking other people why they cannot attend or do something — show them trust so you get trust back.”
This is a good idea. If no one asks for excuses no one will have to make up excuses. Everybody will be comfortable with just screwing up whenever they feel like it, and there will be no consequences. This should work fine until the company goes out of business.
Another tip is “when declining meetings, do not provide a reason.”
If you don’t want to attend for any reason, real or imagined, just tell the meeting organizer that you are really not in the mood for a meeting that day and leave it at that. However, it is recommended that you suggest another time.
How about 3 a.m. on June 1, 2025?
The most radical recommendation of all is to “just own the situation.” There’s no need for a complicated excuse, “apologize if you make a mistake and move on.”
This is a brilliant strategy. Do it enough and you definitely will move on — directly to the unemployment office.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com.