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

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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.

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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.

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‘.

This post is part 7 of 16 in the series Time Management
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