Whether or Not You Should Make an Excuse for Being Late(University of Nebraska, 2019)

Money and Business

Purpose and Background of the Research

We all have times when we are late.
As for late arrival, past studies have found the following:

  • Being late can lead to poor interpersonal relationships and poor workperformance.
  • What excuse you give for being late will affect how others will reactto your tardiness.

This study further developed the research on tardiness with thefollowing objectives

  1. Further clarify the most effective response to reduce the negativereactions of those you make wait when you are late.
    Past research has not shown how people you make wait for react whenyou don't admit to being late.
    So, the following patterns of response to late arrivals were comparedin an experiment.
    • Provide an excuse
    • Provide an apology
    • Not acknowledge arriving late
  2. Identify how factors other than the behavior of the tardy personaffect their tardiness.
    This study looked at how the following factors affect tardiness.
    • Whether or not members who have been waiting will complain about thelate arrival.
    • Number of tardiness.

Research Methods

Type of ResearchObservational study
Experimental Participant558 business people
Outline of the experiment
  1. Participants in the experiment were asked to watch a video of ameeting that took place at a company.
    There were 12 patterns of video content.
    In every pattern, one employee would come 10 minutes late to themeeting, but what happened after that was different for each.
    Here are some examples
    • Colleagues complain about being late.
    • Colleagues don't complain about tardiness.
    • A tardy person apologizes to a colleague.
    • A tardy person makes an excuse to colleagues.
    • The tardy person always come in late,' a colleague explains.
    • The tardy person is rarely late,' a colleague explains.
  2. The researchers ask the participants who watched the video thefollowing questions
    • How do you think employees perceive the late arrival’s work performance?
    • How likely do you think your employees are to support late arrivals?

Research Findings

  • Work performance expectations are rated higher with excuses comparedto not making excuses.
  • You are more likely to get support from your colleagues if you make anexcuse than if you didn't make an excuse.
  • You're most likely to get support from your co-workers if you makeboth an excuse and an apology.
  • When colleagues do not complain about tardiness, work performanceexpectations are rated higher than when colleagues complain.
  • Even if you're a tardy addict, your work performance expectations willbe more highly valued if you make excuses for being late.


When you're late, the best way to handle it is to provide both anapology and an excuse.
This makes it easier for you to keep your work performanceexpectations higher and still get support from others.

An excuse is a self-serving explanation for one's actions with thegoal of reducing the perception of personal responsibility forevents.
And excuses work by transferring the cause of the behavior to anexternal cause over which you have no control.
When you can make excuses work in this way, past research has shownthat there are other benefits including the following.

  • Improve levels of personal self-esteem
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce depression and negative emotions


Reference PaperJoseph et al., 2019
AffiliationsUniversity of Nebraska
JournalBusiness and Psychology
Copied title and URL