Why people lie to get out of work

by Miriam Bell16 Nov 2012

It is common knowledge, albeit not exactly 'kosher'  that, on occasion, employees are flexible with the truth when giving reasons for why they have to miss work.

In fact, according to recent British research conducted by Skyscanner, while 39% of employees book time off over six months in advance to get the dates they want, almost a quarter turn to underhand tactics to ensure they get the annual leave they want. 

The underhand tactics employed by survey respondents, in order to win leave over their colleagues, included:

  • Lying to colleagues;
  • Pretending to have been snowed in;
  • Claiming they had to attend the funeral of a close friend;
  • Saying the dates were already booked off (12% admitted to this);
  • Claiming illness while actually on holiday (7% admitted to this);
  • Pretending they were going on their honeymoon (1% admitted to this); and
  • One person even admitted to “eating a handful of shampoo so I’d be sick in the office”. 

While such behaviour is obviously not ok, a recent HRZone blog by Derek Irvine, from employee recognition company Globoforce, suggested that responsible managers and HR pros should dig deeper to understand the real reasons behind why employees lie in order to miss work.

Irvine went on to outline his three reasons for why employees lie to get off work:

  1. Mental health days are not a figment of the imagination. Sometimes at the end of long project or in the midst of a crazy workload, employees just need a break. Those who claim a sickie when not actually ill may feel guilty at leaving the work on their colleagues to take time off. So, if you want to reduce the number of these false claims, look into research showing supportive supervisors are the number one factor.
  2. A selfish and competitive spirit extends even to preferred holiday time. Though I’m often not in favor of hard policies, sometimes it’s necessary to deal with those 1% claiming a honeymoon just to get their preferred vacation dates when they didn’t plan ahead as well as their colleagues. Then again, I always hate to hear about organisations requiring employees to bring back funeral programmes to prove a loved one had died and they’d gone to funeral. What’s next? Requiring proof of a cruise itinerary on the honeymoon?
  3. It really is that bad at the office. Someone ate shampoo to be able to leave sick? Can anyone imagine what that work environment must have been like for the employee resorting to this? If you are one of those organisations with a hard and fast policy around holiday time, have a think about the unintended consequences your policy might be generating.


  • by MM 16/11/2012 3:26:14 PM

    And then there are the colleagues who get in first with their leave applications and take all the extra long weekends around public holidays so no-one else has a chance to have them off.