4 Ways to Apologize When Arriving Late for Work

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4 Ways to Apologize When Arriving Late for Work
4 Ways to Apologize When Arriving Late for Work

We are often late for work due to circumstances we cannot control, such as a sick child or a traffic jam; but regardless of the reason for your delay, you will need to communicate openly and directly with your supervisor to let them know the situation. A short email explaining the situation is a good option if this is not your first delay or if you are too late.


Method 1 of 4: Notifying You in Advance

Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 1

Step 1. Assess the delay length

Analyze the unforeseen situation in question to estimate how long it will take you to get to work - depending on your job, a few minutes won't be the end of the world, but make sure to let someone know if you think you'll be late for a considerable time.

  • Make a more accurate estimate considering how much time you will need to resolve the situation. Use a navigation app if you're stuck in a traffic jam, for example, to find out the speed of traffic.
  • Your supervisor will be more relaxed and will be able to take the necessary steps if they have an estimate of your arrival time.
Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 3

Step 2. Call work if you think the delay will be more than ten minutes

Unless you're absolutely sure you can make it on time anyway, the best course of action is to let someone know you're late - call to let them know what's going on and how soon you think you'll make it to work.

Prevention is better than cure, so call even if you have no way of estimating the length of the delay

Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 2

Step 3. Consider the events scheduled for that day and call even earlier if necessary

Depending on the day's appointments, your tardiness may cause more than just a minor setback - for example, notify the necessary people right away if the store you work at is having a big sale that day, or if you have a very important meeting at the company..

A co-worker can handle the situation if you call immediately to let the company know

Step 4. Ask to speak directly with your supervisor

As soon as someone answers the phone, ask to speak to the manager, shift leader, supervisor, or a direct report to your boss - that way you can be sure the message gets through to the right person.

  • Share important information, if you have any, with your supervisor's secretary - she will likely take notes and keep a record of the call.
  • Avoid asking a co-worker to break the news to your supervisor - if he gets too busy or even distracted, he may forget to relay the information to the right person.

Method 2 of 4: Apologizing in person

Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 9

Step 1. Discuss the matter with your boss right away

Apologizing should be your first priority when you get to work. Your supervisor will likely say "okay" and allow you to start working normally - otherwise, he will have the opportunity to discuss the matter with you.

  • Apologize in person, even if you have already notified the responsible person over the phone.
  • You can give the impression that you are indifferent or irresponsible if you try to put off an apology because you're too busy or because you're afraid to stand up to your boss, damaging your reputation in the company.
Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 5

Step 2. Give a brief justification for the delay

Explain the circumstances that caused the delay, speaking openly, directly and honestly - the more elaborate the story, the more it will appear that you are lying.

  • Don't embellish the story with unnecessary detail; instead, simply say something like "Sorry, I'm late. My youngest son started to feel sick just as I was about to leave the house."
  • Avoid sharing details that aren't appropriate for the job - if you've been late because you got distracted by a personal phone call or because you spent an hour in the bathroom with a stomachache, perhaps the best course of action is to apologize without giving any excuses.
Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 4

Step 3. Be honest

Strive to convey a sincere tone of remorse during the apology - your supervisor is no fool and will notice if you don't care. The best thing to do is simply to be honest and accept responsibility for your mistake.

Don't laugh, joke, or try to make light of the delay - such behavior may be considered disrespectful

Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 8

Step 4. End the conversation with a "thank you"

It doesn't matter if your supervisor was furious or didn't even care about the delay in one way or another, take a moment to say thanks - in the end, this person is the reason you still have a job. A gesture of gratitude can also soften your boss's heart a little if he's not at all happy about the delay.

  • Show gratitude by saying something like “Thank you for being so understanding. I promise this will not happen again."
  • Swallowing pride in front of your boss can be difficult, but it's the most diplomatic option, particularly if you're the one to blame for the delay.

Method 3 of 4: Apologizing in Writing

Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 12

Step 1. Send an apology email if you are exceptionally late

For delays longer than an hour, supplementing the apology with a written message might be a good idea. You will show that you are genuinely sorry if you take the time to write a formal email, so you may be able to "win back" your supervisor.

E-mail is also a good idea for those who have been late on other occasions, or if the delay has caused a serious business problem, such as the loss of a customer or a security breach

Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 13

Step 2. Write the text using a formal structure

Put your full name and email address at the top of the document and, on the next line, include the date in question. Below, write your boss's name and email, as well as the company address.

Put your branch address instead of the head office if the company is very large and has multiple buildings

Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 14

Step 3. Start the email with a traditional greeting

Start by writing "Dear Fulano" - in Brazil, it is quite common to refer to a supervisor using their first name, but you can also use "Mr." or "Mrs." if you find it more appropriate for the person in question.

  • Most apology emails will start with something like “Dear Luis” or “Dear Marina”.
  • You can also just use your supervisor's name, followed by a comma, if you think "Dear" is a little too far-fetched.
  • Be careful not to sound too intimate, or you may sound disrespectful.
Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 15

Step 4. Include the apology in the body of the email

Explain that the reason for the message is to go beyond a simple verbal apology, and then summarize the reason for the delay, even if you have already discussed it with your supervisor. Don't forget to include the date and time of the incident to provide more context for the situation.

  • The explanation could be something like "I would like to sincerely apologize for my two-hour delay last Friday, August 10, 2018, when I had an unforeseen event at home that required my immediate attention. I understand that my absence occurred on a very inopportune moment for the company and I would like, once again, to say that I am sorry".
  • Write a short, straightforward text. Ideally, it should only have a few lines - the introduction, a quick explanation, and an admission of error.
Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 16

Step 5. Show that you understand the consequences of being late

It's not always easy to pick up the tone of a written apology, so include a line to make it clear you're sorry - acknowledge how the mistake hurt your supervisor and co-workers, or the extent of the damage it caused the company, in case there are any financial consequences.

Write something like "When I missed the meeting that was scheduled for 10:00, I know I lost a potential client and that I damaged the company's reputation as a consultancy focused on customer satisfaction."

Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 17

Step 6. Finish the email saying how you want to fix the error

Explain what you plan to do to avoid further delays, describing the exact steps you plan to take from now on, such as leaving home earlier or scheduling meetings more carefully. That way you'll show that you're focused on realistic solutions rather than just empty excuses.

Show good faith by ending the letter with something like "So that this doesn't happen again, I've already talked to my neighbor and asked him to help me in similar situations."

Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 18

Step 7. Express gratitude before signing

Thank the recipient for their understanding and patience, as well as for the time the person took to read the email. A kind phrase will help to counter any remaining resentment, setting a positive tone for future interactions with your supervisor.

  • That last sentence doesn't have to be a big deal, a simple "Thank you for your patience and calm throughout the whole situation, and I look forward to the next chance to prove my loyalty to the company."
  • If you want something even simpler, end with "Thank you for understanding my difficulties and my plans to overcome them."
Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 19

Step 8. Sign at the bottom of the document

Enter your full name, using the last name you are known by at work. If you decide to send the message in print rather than email, leave some space between your name and the last paragraph of text so you can sign the letter after printing it.

  • You may also include a “Sincerely” before the subscription.
  • If you work for a very large company, include your job title to help your supervisor identify the shipper.

Method 4 of 4: Being Honest and Trustworthy

Step 1. Avoid telling lies or making excuses

Making up a story to justify the delay can be quite tempting, but resist it - the reason for the delay is not as important as making it clear that you will do everything in your power to prevent the problem from happening again. Furthermore, the situation will get even worse if the lie is discovered.

  • Even small flourishes can complicate your situation. A simple traffic report would be enough to disprove the claim that you were late because of a traffic jam.
  • Focusing on how the delay has affected others, rather than trying to lessen the error, will make a more positive impression. "Thanks for rescheduling the meeting at the last minute", for example, sounds much better than "Avenue Tal was completely stopped".
Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 10

Step 2. Wait until the end of the meeting to apologize

The only time we shouldn't apologize right away is when we're late for an important meeting that's still in progress-in which case, the best option is to walk into the meeting room right away. The apology can wait.

  • Try to make as little noise as possible so you can get into the meeting unnoticed.
  • An apology during the meeting would only disrupt the conversation and be embarrassing, as you would have to do this in front of your colleagues and supervisors.
Apologize for Being Late to Work Step 11

Step 3. Do your best to avoid further delays in the future

Obviously, everyone is late from time to time, but you'll earn an unreliable reputation at work if you make a habit of being late. No matter the number and intensity of apologies, repeating the same mistake over and over sends the message that you're not really sorry for what you've done.

  • Start waking up half an hour earlier, if necessary, to have extra time for your morning routine and commuting to business.
  • It is possible that you will be scolded, penalized or even fired if you start to be late too often.


  • Punctuality is an important requirement in any job, but some contractors take it more seriously than others - call a manager even if you're going to be late for just a few minutes if tardiness is viewed particularly negatively by the company's culture.
  • Break the news before a coworker does it for you - don't let your supervisor know about the delay from someone else.
  • Say you'd like to do something to make up for the delay if you feel it's necessary - offer to work late or to take on more tasks on a project, for example.
  • Buy some treats for the whole office the next time you're late - maybe they'll see kindness as the reason you're late, so they'll be more likely to forgive you.


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