How to Ask your Boss if you Can Leave Work Early – Like a Pro

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

It is always a painful process to admit that you need help. Even if that help only comes in the form of needing to leave work early. You know you can’t just disappear out the door, but you hate to face your boss, look them in the eye, and tell them you have to go. However there are a few tips that can help to make the process easier:

1. Give Notice

If you can, try to give your boss advanced notice. If you have a doctor’s appointment that has to be done at a certain time you know about that ahead of time. Send your boss an email and let them know you will have to leave the office early that day. Even if you just found out you are going to have to leave early tell your boss as soon as possible. By giving them notice, even if it is just a few hours, you can help them to schedule work for others and make up for your absence.

2. Communicate Effectively

If your boss is the intimidating type you may want to send your request by email. However some bosses feel that email communication is impersonal and even rude. Know your boss’ style and what they prefer. If face to face/videocall is best for them than do it. If they need it written down then send them an email. If they like phone calls you can do that too. Here is a hint though. Face to face communication is much more effective if there is an emergency situation or if there is a larger underlying problem that you need to discuss. When your boss can see how upset you are they are more likely to not resent your leaving early.

3. Be Respectful

Do not tell your boss you are leaving early. Ask them. I know you are an adult and do not need permission, but the more respectful your request is, the less likely it is to cause conflict. If you want to you can even say something like “I am sorry for the inconvenience but I need to leave at __ tomorrow because…”

4. Give Details

Because is a powerful word. It implies there is more to your leaving early than boredom or slacking off. If you do not explain to your boss why you are leaving they will usually jump to the worst conclusion. You are shopping for another job. You are slacking off. You just don’t feel like working anymore. However if you give them a reason then they feel comforted. Things like doctor’s appointments or family emergencies are inevitable. An understanding boss will have no issue with an occasional request to leave early. If you have an ongoing issue in your life than share that too. Maybe your boss is willing to work with your hours or workload to accommodate you until it can be resolved. You never know unless you communicate.

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5. Make it Up

If you have to leave early one day than you can volunteer to make it up. You can come in early, stay late another day, or work from home (especially in a post-COVID environment.) There are many ways that you can make up for time off from work. Talk to your boss about ways that you can help out for any issues your absence causes.

6. Do Not Make it a Habit

If you are leaving early all the time you have a bigger problem on your hands. Like I said, if you are having to deal with an ongoing issue communicate that with your boss. People do not know what is going on in your life if you do not tell them. You do not have to tell everything, but even a general outline will help them to be more understanding. However making a habit of leaving early without good reason is a good way to get fired. If the hours do not work for you, talk about changing them up. Otherwise stay at work!

Asking your boss to leave work early does not have to be a big deal. Stay calm and figure out exactly what you want to say before you go in their office. Make sure you catch them at a good time if possible, not when they are on the phone or very busy. You can even schedule an appointment to talk with them if necessary. If email is okay for your boss it can be a great way to make sure you communicate clearly and without misunderstandings. Even if you talk to your boss face to face send a backup email confirming what was said. An email gives you both a record of the request and helps keep everything on the up and up. Emergencies happen to everyone. Stay calm and be confident and you will make it through.


I didn’t expect this post to be quite as popular as it has been (it’s received over 1million page views!). I have been asked many times on how to actually ask to leave early by email. So I wrote another post with the perfect ‘how to ask to leave work early email‘.

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37 thoughts on “How to Ask your Boss if you Can Leave Work Early – Like a Pro”

  1. I had to pick up my daughter after her surgery from the hospital. I asked my manager 4 hours in advance when the earliest was for me to leave. He said 10 and told me to get ahead of my work before I left. At 10 I’m putting on my coat, he says hey, you gotta stay. So i explained my situation stating that now its urgent and no one else could do it. I still didn’t end up leaving until 10:45 when i was scheduled til 11. Now i go back in to work and i have a disciplinary action stating i cannot work because i quit. They’re also refusing to put me back on the schedule or fire me.

    1. @Ljay – Your boss sounds like a major jerk. You did the right thing – you asked for permission in good time, and it was granted. Then it was reneged upon. I am not sure what you can do other than to play it with a straight bat and say you were given permission in good faith.

      1. I ask my boss a month early for permission to leave early for a doctor appointment for a medical condition which she’s aware of. She told me no because that month was a blackout period . I notice on our daily news email bulletin in several occasion of other co workers that are leaving early. I think she is not playing fair.

        1. I agree – that doesn’t sound fair Evelyn. Have you tried going to your HR department for help in getting the time off? I’d start there

    1. Hi Teena. Marriage functions are a special event and not an every-day occurrence, so I think it’s reasonable to ask to leave early for this. Offer to make the time up another day, and make sure your duties can be covered. Sounds like a fair request to me! Hope it goes well. Simon

  2. Pingback: How To Ask Your Boss To Leave Work Early | Information

  3. Alondra M Cabello

    I have my first day of work on Monday at my school buy I also have an appointment with my counsler should I ask in advance ? Also I can’t change my school counsler appointment because I need to see her. Do you think my boss will understand?

    1. Hi Alondra. In my opinion, you should be upfront about your situation and ask in advance. You might be surprised at your boss’s understanding, and be given dispensation to see your counsellor. Word of caution is to be prepared for the answer you don’t want – and have to make a choice. If your appointment with the counsellor was in place before your start-day at work was agreed, then you might be asked why you agreed to start that day. It may come down to priority so you should proceed with a clear decision on what yours is. Hope it works out for you Alondra. Simon

  4. My boss has asked if I can work a different shift to the one i am meant to be working, I have made arrangements but don’t know how to tell my boss in a way that won’t make her think I am lazy and ungrateful of work. HELP!!

    1. Hi Connor – total honesty is the best way. You’ve made arrangements, you’d love to help, but this one time you can’t make it. You can still express gratitude that your boss offered you the shift and that you will welcome more offers in the future. You could offer to help her find someone else to cover it. Hope that helps. Simon

  5. When I called in sick today my boss lost his patience with me and says I “cry wolf.” How is he going to know when there is a REAL emergency if I’m lying about why I won’t be in. Truth is, I was having some very painful back spasms and could barely move. Then he dares to compare something going on in his life and says HE made it to work. I should just “tough it up.” He basically is calling me a liar.

    1. Hi Mary – your boss appears to be be an ass. Unethical too. Do you have a doctors note or medication you can use as evidence? You didn’t say what you do in your job – does your work make the pain worse? Perhaps he should be made aware of health and safety laws and how he might be breaking the law!

  6. Hi, this is a very helpful article i found, but i can’t find my solution how to figure out my early leave from office. I am an internee in office and its been like 8 months i am working as an internee, i am working here without stipend, i showed my punctuality at my starting for 6-7 months, at starting my department guys were saying you are an internee you should come late and leave early, except my boss, but i never listened to them and i was following the office timings, and this is my 8 month now. Now everyone use to tell me that,why are coming late, infact i have a reason for coming late and i told them the reason that i can not find any transportation, because its summers now and the timings has changed for other workers. And everyone now tells me that i am liar including my boss.I want to take off time for my studies too. My boss agreed for 9-2:00. The office timing before were 9-5:30 and now in the 8th month of my internship, HR announced 9-3:00 for just that month. But now my boss is saying that stay for 1 hour. But i can’t stay, i really need time off from my office. How can i handle this all?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Jay – could you have a 3-way conversation with your boss and HR? Go in with a clear message that you want to find a positive outcome that works for everyone and that your past record has shown your commitment to your employer. I think a 3-way is important if you’re being accused of lying. Good Luck

    1. Hi Disha – are you eligible for a holiday? If so, make that clear. If not, then is the holiday for fun or for some other reason? My advice is to be clear on what you are asking for, why you’re asking for it, and if you will offer to make up the time elsewhere. You may also want to demonstrate that your duties are covered elsewhere, and that your holiday will have little or no impact on your employer because you have cleared your backlog, for example. Hope that helps. Simon

  7. I needed to leave 10 min. early for a doctor appointment and asked boss. Took shorter lunch to make up the time plus arrived early. However, got a mini lecture about not staying until quitting time and a reminder of what time end of work day is. By the way, I don’t make this a regular habit. I try to schedule appointments late enough so I don’t have to leave early, but just couldn’t this time.

    I’ve never had this little flexibility and compassion from a supervisor on something like this before. It messed with me the rest of my day and gave me more stress to an already stressful job situation.

    1. Hi Annette – unless you made ‘a deal’ with your boss to shorten your lunch to make up for leaving early, then you’re unfortunately bang to rights. That being the letter of a typical employment policy. However, hardly seems fair does it? Best thing: apologize, take it on the chin, and strike the deal next time.

    1. Great question Rohit – if you require urgency then I suggest you use something like ‘Urgent Request: I request to leave early [today/tomorrow/whenever]’ – the subject should be to the point. I hope that helps

    1. Use the same approach Sandhya. If you’re expected to make up the time, then include that in your communication.

  8. How you ask to leave work early will also influence how your request is received. The best approach in many situations is to frame your action as a request as opposed to simply informing your supervisor that you will be leaving early. You re more likely to get a positive response if you ask rather than tell.

  9. I want to go early from office 2 hourb before , because of Diwali function in Thuravoor temple ,so heavy traffic in National Highway, how to ask to my boss

  10. Whenever you ask your boss for some amount of time off, always be prepared to answer the question, “How will you make up for it?” Maybe you’ll work remotely while you’re out, or respond to emails when you get home that evening, or come in early the next morning, or get stuff done the day before.

  11. I agree with the majority of this content, except #5. I wouldn’t recommend offering time like that. Life happens, no need to negotiate if your wife is in the hospital.

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