Okay, so you’re finally convinced of your inalienable right to skip out of work. Now, how do you do it? Well, I certainly can’t teach you everything I know about spinning a believable yarn, but I can damned sure give you some advice culled from my years of experience and observation.
Plan ahead. Don’t wait until you have your boss on the phone or in your office to decide what excuse you are going to use. Choose an excuse and think about what you are going to say before spilling your guts. For maximum believability, try to pick one that you have actually experienced.
Act “as if.” Consider how you would feel if what you were telling your boss really happened to you. (Again, it helps if you have gone through the actual experience.) It’s not exactly convincing when you tell your boss that your grandfather died, but you sound like you just won the lottery. (Though, on second thought, if Gramps had some dough stashed away, his untimely departure might be like winning the lottery after all ... well, you get the idea.)
Anticipate questions. When you call to tell the boss that you were diagnosed with pink eye, know the symptoms, how long you will be out of work and any other questions he may ask. Likewise, if the heater in your house is broken, be prepared to tell him when the repairman is expected or how long it will take to fix.
HELPFUL HINT: When the boss starts asking more specific or detailed questions that you can’t answer, the best thing to do is end the conversation — IMMEDIATELY! If you are on the phone, tell him that you have another call or that someone is at your door ( ... must be the repairman) — you’ve got to go. And if you’re cornered at the office, look at your watch and suddenly remember an important meeting or phone call you have to make.
When all else fails, you can always excuse yourself for an urgent trip to the bathroom, which, quite cleverly, sets the stage for tomorrow’s bladder infection or diarrhea.
Use details conservatively. Don’t give too much information because, as any mother will tell you, children who lie inundate with details as if they are trying to convince a person of something. After all, if you’re telling the truth, there is no motivation to try and convince anyone.
On the other hand, you can’t tell a truly believable lie without any details at all: “Yeah, hi, Boss. Uh, my house burned down, so I won’t be in today. Buh-bye.”
The trick, then, is to provide enough details to establish that what you are claiming actually happened — but without overdoing it. For example, if you’re using a medical excuse, toss out a few symptoms; if you’ve selected a car problem, describe — briefly — what your car is or isn’t doing. Maybe throw in a sound effect or two.
And when in doubt, leave it out. It’s better to give less information than more because the fewer “facts” you have to remember, the less likely you will get tripped up later on.
Use telephone technology to your advantage. As much as I hate the majority of telephone technology (namely, Star 69 and Caller ID), I am eternally grateful to the inventor of voice mail. Sure, people complain about not being able to talk to a human being anymore, but they are the ones at work, trying to conduct business with a machine. To those of us, trying to play hooky, voice mail is a godsend.
For one thing, voice mail can’t ask you questions about why you aren’t coming in to work or make you feel guilty for staying home. And it certainly can’t tell you that you have to come in.
HELPFUL HINT: Most voice mail systems have a dandy little feature called the date/time stamp, which tells the recipient the date and time that the call was received. (No duh.) What this means is that you can leave a message in the middle of the night, presumably in the throes of some horrible illness — or just after learning of a family emergency.
Your boss doesn’t need to know that you left the message at 3 a.m. because that’s what time it was when you got up to use the bathroom or when you got home from the bar.
Be aware of your surroundings. Your boss might just find it suspicious that you’re calling from the hospital if he hears a dog barking in the background.
As an adjunct to the previous tip, don’t forget about that godforsaken Call Waiting beep. It’s difficult to believe you’re calling from a pay phone on the side of the road when he hears the familiar click (especially if you’re dense enough to say, “Hold on a sec. I’ve got another call.”). If you are worried about getting a call during your conversation, find out from your phone company how to temporarily cancel Call Waiting before dialing.
The bottom line here, folks, is to think before you speak. Most bosses aren’t bright enough to catch you in a lie themselves; they only catch you when you screw up. Don’t give them the opportunity
Final words of caution:
1) Calling in sick or being otherwise indisposed on a Monday, Friday or day before/after a holiday is generally a red flag. And while it certainly isn’t proof of anything fraudulent, just know that you may be questioned more than usual.
2) When you take a day off or leave early (especially if you claim to be ill), do not come back the next day with a new hair style, a sunburn or even a new outfit.
3) If you’ve called in sick, try to avoid places where you think you might run into your boss (or tattletale coworkers). He might have a hard time believing you are suffering from incapacitating heartburn as he watches you suck down a burrito and an enchilada.
Unless, of course, you can pull off a quick case of amnesia ...