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The effective 5 phrases to use next time your late.

If you work in a professional environment, there is a chance that you will be late for work at some point. Perhaps you slept badly and woke up half an hour later than planned. Perhaps the public transport was delayed and you missed your train. Perhaps it took longer to get ready than expected.

There are several phrases that can help ease this situation. The following phrases are perfect for when you arrive to work, or an interview, late. They demonstrate that your intentions were good and you tried very hard to be on time, but it just wasn’t possible in the end. None of these phrases will admit guilt or apologize for being late; instead, they’ll show that you’re ready to get the job done.

For each phrase, there is a ‘Do’ version (the positive statement) and a ‘Don’t’ version (a negative statement). It’s vital that you pay attention to your tone of voice when speaking with colleagues/clients who are upset with you for not being punctual; if possible, avoid using these words in an apologetic manner.

Do say: ‘Wow, I’m sorry I was late!’

Don’t say: ‘I didn’t realize we had an appointment.’

You should show the other party that you are aware of the value of time rather than immediately apologize for being late. A simple expression of regret can be enough to get your colleague/client focused on what matters.

Do say: ‘Can we have a few minutes for me to get caught up before I help us move forward?’

Don’t say: ‘Am I too late to contribute?’ Or worse, ‘Do you want me to leave so you can talk amongst yourselves?’

You may not be able to learn as much as possible about the task ahead if you don’t know what’s been done so far. It’s also important to learn how to learn; give yourself a minute to catch up with those who have already learned more than you have.

Do say: ‘I was running a little behind schedule. I’m sorry I kept you waiting.’

Don’t say: ‘It’s been two minutes.’

In the middle ground between overly apologetic and defensive, this statement quickly explains why you’re late without making excuses. An additional sentence could be added explaining how you intend to make up for lost time, such as ‘I’m ready to get started right now!’

Do say: ‘I know that punctuality is important to the success of this project. If I learn that something will delay me then I will call and keep you updated on my progress.’

Don’t say: ‘I won’t be late again.’

Even if you learn that something will delay you, don’t make this promise. In this case, your colleague or client will feel betrayed rather than learn from the experience when you are late again.

Do say: ‘I came here because I want this job/I’m excited by what we discussed last week. Can we talk about how I can contribute?’

Don’t say: ‘I’m sorry I was late.’

By doing this, you show the other person that you are interested in learning more about their company/project/task. Additionally, this is a great time to learn about who has dealt with this person previously, or what challenges they faced in tackling this problem before.

Arriving late to work is never ideal, but sometimes it can’t be helped. The important thing is that you handle the situation with grace and professionalism. Use one of the phrases we’ve provided to let your boss or interviewer know that you’re aware of the situation and you’re doing everything possible to make up for lost time. With a positive attitude and a willingness to make up for your tardiness, you’ll quickly regain any ground you may have lost. Learn right, Laugh more and Speak English fluently today!

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