HR Administration

Please excuse my absence: 5 outrageous reasons for taking a day off


We’ve all had one of those mornings. The kind when we wake up and, while we’re not absolutely, technically, certifiably sick, we could definitely do with staying in bed and catching up on some ‘me time’. Most of us will indulge in a snooze button hit or two, but some will go so far as to fake illness or invent an elaborate excuse for not going into the office. Need to fake a doctor’s note? There’s even an app for that! And the rule seems to be: The more incredible the better.

For beleaguered business owners and HR managers, keeping on top of employee absence and sick leave is a hard enough job in itself without having to be a human lie-detector too. It’s impossible to be sure who’s pulling a fast one and who’s being honest. Especially when, the truth is stranger than fiction as outrageous circumstances conspire against well-meaning workers to keep them from their desks.

We’ve scoured the internet and compiled a list of the top 5 real-life reasons given for missing a day of work. Read on and enjoy, and next time you’re tempted to pull a sickie, spare a thought for these hapless employees and the HR headaches they created.

1. “My dog’s having a nervous breakdown”

Now, we understand that pets are an important part of many people’s lives, and that owners often boast close psychic ties with their four-legged friends, but this employee took it to an extreme. While we don’t doubt the dog in question may be suffering, it seems to us that the owner could do with a once-over too, so it’s probably best they make a visit to the vet (followed by the doctor).

2. “I forgot I had been hired”

Forgetting your new email password, we can understand. Maybe even your colleagues’ names. But forgetting you got the job? This doesn’t bode well as a sign of the employee’s dedication to the new role, let alone their mental faculties. It’s probably best for all concerned if this false-start new-starter calls it quits, their zero per cent attendance record intact.

3. “My dead grandmother is being exhumed for a police investigation”

We’ve all heard the one about having to go to your grandmother’s funeral – that favourite of schoolday scivers (I knew a boy who, remarkably, had lost ten grandparents before reaching high school). This excuse adds a new twist to the tale, with plenty of intrigue for good measure.

4. “I can’t get to work because my 12-year-old daughter stole my car”

This excuse has all the hallmarks of high drama: family discord, crime, split loyalties and a challenge to overcome. Left without transport, the victim of the crime understandably wanted to keep the police out of it. However, the story does fall a little short in the drama stakes. Our hero did not overcome adversity, remaining carless at curtains. We’re left guessing about loose ends, like whatever happened to the vehicle and the young GTA enthusiast? If any employers find themselves on the receiving end of a similar absence note, we recommend steering clear: best to avoid any risk of being implicated as an accessory or co-conspirator.

5. “I drank too much and fell asleep on someone’s floor – I don’t know where I am”

While I must make clear that at we don’t condone such Bacchanalian excesses, we do doff our HR caps to this employee for his honesty. It sounds like a post-Christmas party hangover that no amount of morning coffee could shift. The question is, did he make it back home before or after his P45 landed on the doorstep?

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Image thanks to Feelart from


5 epic spreadsheet fails


Spreadsheet-based computer programs have been around for the last four decades, and have had a major impact on the digitisation of business. For many they’ve become indispensable, and have revolutionised whole industries. Sadly, however, they are not immune from human fallibility and there have been some notable examples of situations in which spreadsheets have landed businesses and individuals in some seriously sticky situations. As technology progresses, the spreadsheet is becoming an increasingly antiquated business tool that wastes time, is susceptible to human error and has the power to do real harm.

We’ve all heard the horror stories – the kind that keep business administrators and HR professionals up at night. Like the one about the HR manager who emailed an entire company a spreadsheet that contained hidden (and easily un-hidden) columns showing all employees’ salaries and benefits. But that’s nothing compared to some spreadsheet gaffes. Here are’s top five favourites:

1. Reinhart and Rogoff learn a lesson

The Reinhart-Rogoff paper ‘Growth in a Time of Debt’ was an influential report on the relationship between government debt and GDP growth. However, it was found that the Harvard economist authors had used faulty Excel sheets to analyse their data. To make matters worse, the errors were spotted by an economics graduate student. The embarrassment caused by this little spreadsheet cock-up went beyond the report’s authors, as before the error was spotted this lacklustre, faulty research was touted by economists and politicians around the world as proof of the need for austerity.

2. Fannie Mae’s billion dollar blushes

When Fannie Mae was in the midst of changing its accounting system, the finance team used spreadsheets to make some of the calculations required by the new system. The only problem was that these spreadsheets contained an error that threw some of the results off by over a billion dollars. A few embarrassing audits later, Fannie Mae made a major restatement.

3. Kodak recounts its losses

Another company that had to make a very public restatement – this time of its losses in Q3 2005 – was Kodak. Some $9 million had to be added to its posted losses, following a previous error made on (you guessed it) Excel. A spokesperson gave a full and all too familiar explanation: There were “too many zeros” in a cell.

4. Emerson’s spreadsheet shock

Construction company Emerson found it had come up short in estimating the total cost of a contract bid – to the tune of $3.7m. All because one little cell (which held costs for electrical work) was not included in a spreadsheet formula. A shocking oversight, indeed!

5. Nevada flushes $5m down the toilet

Citizens and councillors in the City of Nevada saw an unexpected $5m deficit in the water and sewer fund when the 2006 city budget was published online and distributed for a council meeting. The reason for the drop? Yet another spreadsheet slipup!

What can small businesses learn from these multi-billion-dollar fails? That spreadsheets excel at landing businesses in awkward – and sometimes very expensive – messes. This can’t go on. One of the founding principles of is that small and medium-sized businesses’ employee management should never have to risk these administrative anomalies and face the same sorry fate as the hapless spreadsheet victims mentioned above.

There’s a new way to do business, and HR management software is at the heart of the revolution. Employees deserve to know that their data is managed in a secure and reliable environment, accessible from the cloud 24/7, and that intelligent systems are in place to minimise the potential for human error. Fundamental processes like absence management are too important to be put at risk by inefficient, outdated and error-ridden technology. Shred the spreadsheet: HR belongs in the cloud!

To move your HR to the cloud with, sign up for a free 14-day trial today.

GBS_2074 By Tony Dillon, CEO,