Have you heard the one about the woman whose hair caught on fire as she was blow-drying it? Or the one about the person whose clothes — all of them — were stolen?

Well, maybe you haven’t, but apparently somebody has. And the funny thing is, these lines are not set-ups for jokes; according to survey results released Jan. 28 by CareerBuilder, they are actual excuses that employees have given to their bosses when they arrive late to work. The Harris Poll surveyed almost 2,600 hiring and human resource managers and more than 3,200 adult full-time workers between Nov. 4 and Dec. 1 on behalf of the company perhaps best known for its job-listing website.

Some of the other excuses workers gave for being tardy? “A black bear entered my carport and decided to take a nap on the hood of my car.” “A Vaseline truck overturned on the highway and cars were slipping left and right.” Generally, however, the reasons staff members cited for arriving late to work were more believable: traffic (53%), oversleeping (33%), bad weather (28%), lack of sleep (23%) and the need to take children to daycare or school (15%).

The frequency with which employees are delayed is no laughing matter; 25% of survey participants told pollsters that they are late to work at least once every month, and 13% said they are late on a weekly basis. These findings are on par with results from last year’s poll, according to Careerbuilder. The punchline is that employees who routinely are late may not be as productive, may affect the morale of their fellow employees and also may be an indicator of issues in a workplace that extend beyond any one person.

The best employers undoubtedly will hire some not-so-conscientious workers from time to time, of course, and even good employees may encounter unanticipated obstacles on the way to work. By increasing the odds that a workplace will be someplace that workers want to be, however, employers may reduce some staff members’ tardiness. Recent research, for instance, has suggested that having good managers in place, communicating opportunities for advancement, giving staff members some control over their duties and ensuring that they feel a sense of purpose in their jobs are some of the steps that can help increase employee satisfaction and retainment. (See the links below, under “Related articles,” for more information.)

As humorous as the excuses cited in the Careerbuilder survey are, finding ways to make them disappear is a riddle worth solving.

Senior Editor Lois. A. Bowers welcomes your funny stories and serious solutions at lois.bowers@mcknights.com.