People doing office work.

How to Manage Employees Who Constantly Make Excuses

Effectively overseeing a workforce is already a significant responsibility, and managing employees who constantly make excuses can introduce an additional layer of complexity, potentially rendering the task even more challenging and demanding. 

Thankfully, in this article, we have compiled a detailed list of things you can do to manage employees who constantly make excuses in the workplace. We’ll explore several effective strategies that will help foster accountability, improve productivity, and create a positive work environment. Let’s dive right in!

Why Do Employees Make Excuses?

To understand how to manage employees that make excuses, you first need to understand the “why” of it. Granted, trying to look for reasons behind excuses might seem redundant, but getting to the nitty-gritty of it will help you recognize the underlying issues, which in turn will help you approach the issue with empathy and constructiveness.

In the workplace, excuses are frequently used to explain away errors, dodge responsibility, or escape from new duties. While they may seem like attempts to absolve oneself from responsibilities, closer inspection reveals more complex psychological factors at work.

We all know how it goes, you could get genuine excuses like; “I wasn’t able to join the meeting because I didn’t have a stable internet connection” or flimsy excuses like “I couldn’t make it to work because it was raining” and “I couldn’t complete this task because the power went out”.  

Whether their excuses are genuine or insincere, these employees create a block in the general workflow which can be a bit frustrating. As a manager, looking for ways to handle these types of situations is taking a step in the right direction.

Here are some of the reasons employees make excuses:

The Fear of Failure

The fear of failure can be a powerful motivator for employees to make excuses. These excuses can sometimes serve as a coping method for them when they believe they’ve fallen short of expectations, in order to avoid dealing with the emotional fallout of failure. It’s pretty simple, recognizing and understanding this as a manager will better equip you to handle cases that may come up.

Zero Motivation

Employees are more effective and productive when they have motivation. A lack of motivation will have the opposite effect, making them more likely to make excuses on the job to justify their terrible performance and avoid taking responsibility. When there is no motivation, workers may become indifferent and disengaged, causing them to look for ways to evade tasks or minimize their involvement in office engagements.

In this case, excuses become a way to rationalize disinterest in work, or completely dodge them.

The Fear of Repercussions

The fear of what will happen if tasks aren’t completed is one of the main reasons many people resort to making excuses. It’s easy to hide behind excuses to avoid certain consequences like job loss, criticism, or extreme reprimand. Although many of these excuses may not make sense, it’s easy to make them and escape certain consequences. 

Understanding this as a manager will enable you to adopt a more empathetic and supportive approach in dealing with employee mistakes.

Upholding Self-Image

It’s safe to say that in the office space, one’s self-image and level of competence is important. Falling short of the ideal standard can be a reason for employees to make excuses. In this case, employees will resort to making excuses as a defensive strategy. 

Recognizing the role that self-image plays in creating justifications can help create a climate where your employees feel comfortable confessing their mistakes and looking for ways to get better.

To Avoid Conflict

Another possible reason for making excuses in the workplace could be to avoid conflict, especially between co-workers and superiors. Employees may feel more at ease inventing excuses because they are afraid that admitting errors may cause disagreement. In this case, keeping cordial relationships in the office is more important than admitting fault.

Man using macbook.
Employees make excuses for various reasons.

14 Ways to Manage Employees Who Constantly Make Excuses

Once you understand why employees make excuses, it would be much easier to tackle difficult issues when they arise. The following are clear-cut ways to deal with excuse-making workers;

  1. Create a Proper Line of Communication

Establishing open channels of communication is the first step in dealing with employees who always find an excuse. It’s important to establish a setting where employees may talk about difficulties and failures without worrying about criticism or retaliation. In this regard, active listening is essential. 

When an employee offers an explanation, pay close attention to what they are saying in order to fully comprehend it. This will give you a better idea of the most appropriate reaction, and prevent you from lashing out abrasively. An open sit-down will yield better results than an abrasive approach.

  1. Find Out the Root Cause

The aim of proper communication should be for you to understand why the excuses are coming up, and what exactly the root cause is. Working with employees to determine the reason for their excuses is the way to go. It can happen that the excuse given is genuine, and results from personal problems, or being genuinely overwhelmed. 

Finding out the reason will better equip you to manage the situation properly.

  1. Set Definite Objectives and Expectations

While it’s great to be objective and understanding, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that the work needs to be done. In other words, empathy is great, but setting clear job expectations and goals will ensure that everyone understands their responsibilities, roles, and personal expectations, leaving almost no room for excuses. 

Setting clear, achievable goals and frequently communicating them will help to keep employees on track and minimize excuses.

  1. Use a Performance Tracking System

Regular performance assessments will make frequent excuses a thing of the past, that’s one thing you can be sure of. Implementing a performance management system will promote accountability and enable you to spot patterns of excuses. You can do this quarterly or monthly to ensure employees are giving their best at all times. 

The best way to get the most out of this tracking system is to keep records and document all performances including achievements and areas for improvements. This will give you a reference for the near future.

  1. Promote the Problem-Solution Approach

Encourage employees to utilize the problem-solution approach. Instead of making excuses when problems arise, encourage them to be proactive, tackle the problems head-on, and think of possible solutions. Encourage them to brainstorm ideas when they face challenges and include them in decision-making processes. This makes them problem owners and not runners, eliminating the need to make excuses. 

It also promotes a sense of accountability and responsibility.

  1. Invest in Proper Resources and Adequate Training

It’s best to eliminate all possible reasons for underperformance to prevent employees from giving excuses. In providing adequate resources and training, you are ensuring that your workers have everything they need to perform their tasks adequately and in a timely manner. This in turn will increase their confidence and reduce the possibility of them giving excuses.

  1. Give Constructive Criticism

When responding to excuses, it’s best to offer constructive criticism as opposed to harsh criticism. The goal of constructive criticism is to offer direction, identify areas for improvement, and promote growth and development while keeping a positive and supportive attitude. To appropriately practice constructive criticism, you need to be precise and clear. 

Feedback that is too generic or ambiguous may leave the recipient perplexed about what needs to be improved. Saying, “Your presentation wasn’t good,” for instance, can be replaced by, “Your slides lacked visuals, which made the presentation less engaging.” You can also implement the sandwich method of putting the negative review in between two positive comments. 

Additionally, for constructive criticism to be effective, you need to put your attention on the problematic behavior or performance rather than the person (avoid making things personal), and provide solutions. Constructive criticism inspires workers to make improvements by assisting them in understanding their flaws or where they have gone wrong.

  1. Address Persistent Issues

If employees are still persistent in making excuses after several attempts at engaging them in the problem-solving approach, it will be best to deal with these concerns through progressive discipline if necessary.

  1. Implement Performance Improvement Plans

This simple step will help you manage employee improvements, especially when nothing changes over time, despite your best efforts.  A performance improvement plan establishes a deadline for improvement while outlining specific performance expectations. If the employee doesn’t reach the established objectives, there are also consequences. So, while you’re putting several things in place to limit the excuses that employees give, it is also important to track their improvement.

You might need to think about taking additional measures, such as extending the performance improvement plan period, applying discipline, or even termination, if they don’t make the adequate improvement by the end of the set period.

  1. Fairness and Consistency

When dealing with employees that make excuses, consistency and fairness are paramount. It’s important to apply policies and penalties uniformly across the team and treat all employees fairly. In this way, a fair work atmosphere will be maintained and excuses will become unacceptable- which is the ultimate goal.

  1. Celebrate Accomplishments

Celebrate and acknowledge the accomplishments and victories of your team. This is one great way to encourage employees that are doing great while also encouraging the others that aren’t doing so great to do better. Employees that receive positive reinforcement are more likely to succeed and have less of an excuse-making tendency. Thank them for their continuous effort and commitment to doing a great job.

  1. Set a good example

Your actions as a manager or team leader will definitely set the tone for the entire group. You shouldn’t be caught making excuses for yourself or others in the workplace. Instead, set a good example by displaying responsibility, problem-solving skills, and a diligent work ethic. When problems arise, don’t give excuses, follow the problem-solving approach. Your behavior may serve as an example for your colleagues.

  1. Implement a Positivity and Growth Mindset

Develop a culture of learning and progress among your team. Stress the value of a development mentality, in which obstacles are perceived as chances for improvement rather than justifications for giving up. Encourage staff to take on challenges and see failures as opportunities for growth.

  1. Bridging Skill Gaps

You can bridge skill gaps by providing extensive training programs. These courses or programs will give employees the skills and knowledge needed to carry out their jobs successfully. Employees are less likely to use ineptitude as an excuse when they are secure in their skills. 

Providing training programs will also make it evident to employees that the company appreciates the professional development of its staff members. This encouragement will boost employee morale and lessen their propensity to provide justifications stemming from feelings of neglect.

Steps to take to manage employees making excuses.


It can be difficult to manage employees that make excuses all the time, but with the appropriate strategy, you can deal with this problem successfully. As seen in the guide above, you can foster a more productive and positive work environment by comprehending the underlying causes of the excuses employees make, enhancing communication, establishing clear objectives, putting accountability mechanisms into place, and developing a culture of accountability. All this effort is certainly worth it in the long run, but you should keep in mind that each employee is different, so it might take some time and patience to see noticeable improvements.

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