Sample Apology Letter for Being Late for Work

This illustration is about tips for writing a letter to apologize for tardiness at work, including saying sorry, acknowledging the consequences, accepting responsibility, explaining what caused it, promising that it won't happen again, showing you regret it, and offering to help correct the situation.

 Emilie Dunphy / The Balance

Do you need to apologize for being late to work? Writing an apology letter to a manager can help you remedy what can be a difficult situation. With so many hours spent at the office, it is likely that you will make a mistake at some point and show up late to either start the day or to an important meeting and need to apologize.

Writing an apology letter is an effective way to show you’re sincerely sorry for missing work. Taking the time to apologize will help smooth the way for your return to the office.

Here's why apologizing for being late is a good idea, advice on what to include in your email or letter, and an example of an apology email to review.

Why You Should Apologize

Realizing when you’ve made a mistake at work and taking the initiative to apologize to your employer is a sign of professionalism. Even if the mistake went unobserved by your employer, it can make sense to acknowledge it rather than hoping it won’t be noticed, since there may be troubleshooting that needs to be done in order to remedy the situation.

A good manager who receives a sincere apology will generally use the opportunity to constructively advise the employee on how to avoid the error in the future.

When you apologize for being late, there are some excuses that are better than others. That's especially true if this isn't the first time you've been delayed.

How to Write a Note of Apology for Being Late

If you’ve been late to work, try to write your note of apology as quickly as possible. The sooner you address the issue, the easier it will be to move on. Keep your tone professional while accepting responsibility for your tardiness. However, you should not be overdramatic or self-abasing in making your apology—keep your content simple and direct.

Here's how to apologize:

Apologize and lay out a specific account of the situation. Start with a general description of the infraction along with the details about the time and place:

Please accept my deepest apology for showing up a half hour late to the presentation with Smith Corp. on Monday morning. It was a mistake on my part and unprofessional.

Acknowledge the consequences. Acknowledge the damage that resulted and any implications or consequences for the business:

I know this inconvenienced our client and caused a delay in making important decisions about their strategy for next quarter.

Accept responsibility. Take responsibility and acknowledge you were at fault:

I made a mistake, for which I am sincerely sorry.

Explain what happened. Describe your role in the situation by recounting what caused you to be late without offering too many excuses:

I failed to allow myself extra time for traffic and to anticipate that the freeway might be blocked by an accident, as unfortunately happened.

Promise that it won't happen again. Include a sentence or two assuring your manager it won't happen again:

Please know that I've taken the necessary measures to ensure this won't occur again.

Show that you regret the situation. Include a simply expressed statement of regret:

I let you, the client, and myself down, and I deeply regret putting you in this situation.

Offer to help correct the situation. Provide some way of easing the pain caused and end with a willingness to do whatever is necessary to correct the situation:

I've emailed Smith Corp. expressing my regret and asking to reschedule the meeting at their earliest convenience.

Sample Apology Letter to an Employer for Lateness

Looking at an example of a written apology letter to a supervisor for being late to a client meeting may be helpful for when it’s time to write your own letter:

Sample Apology Email to a Manager

Subject: Serena Holden - Meeting Attendance

Dear Ms. Chen,

I am extremely sorry for my late arrival at the important sales meeting with The Star Agency yesterday. My tardiness almost lost us a valuable client.

I understand that, as a sales team, we need to always present ourselves as professional and reliable, and timeliness is a large part of that professionalism. I, therefore, let down the entire sales team with my behavior.

I am currently taking steps to ensure that I am never late again for a client meeting (or any other work-related event). I was delayed due to my car breaking down, so I am getting my car serviced. From now on, I will also be sure to leave for meetings even earlier than I already do, so even in the case of an emergency, I will still be able to arrive on time.

Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to reassure you and the rest of the company that I greatly value my position on the sales team, and that I will not let the team down again. Thank you so much for your understanding.


Serena Holden

How to Send Your Letter

While you can mail or hand-deliver your note of apology, it may be easiest to send it by email. There are specific guidelines for how to send your email, starting with the subject line. Use something like “A Note of Apology" or "Meeting Attendance."

The salutation, body of the message, and signature can all be the same as a written letter. Avoid using emoticons or stylized fonts. Simple fonts such as Arial, Calibri, or something similar is best. Finally, be sure to proofread your message for any spelling or grammatical errors before sending.

Key Takeaways

  • Taking the time to apologize to your employer is a sign of professionalism.
  • Your apology or email letter doesn't need to include all the details of what happened.
  • Include what you plan to do to remedy any problems that were caused by your absence.