The new way to catch phony absence excuses

Internet computer usage

Are your managers looking for a way to catch employees who play hooky and lie about it? Here’s the latest strategy:

Wait for them to brag about it online.

Last year, 33% of employees admitted to lying about an absence, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.

You can expect more of the same this year. And, fortunately for managers (and anyone who likes a good laugh), some of those employees will be stupid enough to leave incriminating evidence posted online where anyone can see it.

Here are some real-life stories of managers who caught liars red-handed with a little Web surfing:

1. A picture’s worth a thousand words

Kevin Colvin, an intern at Anglo Irish Bank’s North American headquarters, e-mailed his boss to tell him he’d miss work the next day because of a family emergency.

The following morning, the manager looked the intern’s Facebook page and found a picture taken at a Halloween party the night before. The snapshot was of Colvin dressed in a fairy costume, complete with a wand, skirt and glitter make-up.

What did the manager do? He replied to the intern’s e-mail, attached the incriminating and embarrassing photo — and sent a copy to everyone else in the office.

2. The wrong way to get a week’s vacation

Jenn Hoffman tells a story about an employee she managed who claimed to have caught the flu while visiting her family and needed a week to recover before traveling home.

However, Hoffman logged on to Myspace and found this message from the employee to all of her contacts: “Back from Michigan. Called in sick to work ALL WEEK. Who wants to party???!!”

The company gave her a lot more than the week off. She was fired.

3. It’s a valid medical reason, right?

Kyle Doyle, a 21-year-old call center employee from Australia, decided to call out sick after a particularly rough night of drinking.

A young employee skipping work because of a hang-over is probably nothing new — but Doyle went a step further and used Facebook to reveal the reason for his absence. His profile that day read: “not going to work, f*** it i’m still trashed SICKIE WOO.”

His employer found the page and HR e-mailed Doyle asking for a doctor’s note — and attached a screen shot of his accidental confession.

What good stories do you have about employees who’ve been caught playing hooky? Share them in the comments section below.


  1. This is embarrassing, but it’s the counter-argument to Kyle Doyle’s plight. While in college, I worked at a fast food restaurant. They were very good to me, working around my classes and breaks. I showed up to work one morning extremely hung over. After about 20 minutes, my supervisor told me to go home because I still smelled like alcohol. I protested, saying I was fine to do the work, but he said they can’t have me there giving off the aroma of a frat house keg.

    Obviously, I learned that the lesson is not to get hammered the night (or early morning) before work, it’s still very hard to hide.

    As far as Mr. Doyle et al, bragging about getting away with something is not bright either.

  2. We had somebody say that he was going to be with his ex-wife (and mother of his children) during some medical tests so she wouldn’t be alone. He then called to tell us he was taking her out to get a quick lunch and then would be in. He showed up at around 3, after his ex-wife –who is friends with all of us– called to let us know that she was done with her tests and all was clear. Her ex hadn’t been with her at all.

  3. If you don’t have “sick” leave, you don’t have to worry about employees lying to you. We haven’t had sick leave for 25 years. We offer 10 days of personal leave per year. If employees need a day off they just call in and say, “I need a day off.” If they call in at the last minute too often or they run out of personal leave and have to go into unpaid time, it becomes an attendance problem, but we don’t worry about whether or not we are being lied to.

  4. My assistant called out on a Friday. While she was out, I had to get her job done (pay roll week) and needed to acces her email. She told someone on Monday that she was calling out to go snowboarding that Friday–adding “ssshhhh, it’s a secret”. Sure enough, she called out, said she would be taking pain meds that put her out all day. Ok, give her benefit of doubt. Check her Facebook page a few days later–a picture of her, on a chair lift, dated that same date.

    Smart cookie that one.

  5. What did the manager do? He replied to the intern’s e-mail, attached the incriminating and embarrassing photo — and sent a copy to everyone else in the office.

    Wait a minute, the kid is an intern. Take him into the office and talk to him about adult expectations.
    Sending a copy around the office is just vicious.

  6. When this word gets out, I’m sure few will post or brag about their absences on Facebook, MySpace, etc.

  7. It is better to call off sick with a hang-over than show up under the influence and endanger your and other people’s life when working with complicated or dangerous equipment.

  8. I had one of my staff call out sick and the next day I saw him in a picture in the newspaper attending a march. Had he told me the truth, I would have been OK with him taking a vacation day for that. But trying to “use up” his sick days and lying about it was enough to can him.

  9. What amazes me is that managers have the time, and desire, to check up on their employee by going on Facebook or MySpace. Is it a bad idea to advertise that you called in sick to work on your social network site? Probably. But we all need a mental health day every once-in-a-while and sometimes it’s a last minute thing. To me, checking up on someone in that way is creepy and underhanded and shows that you have either not enough work or no life of your own.

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