We all know that Murphy’s Law, the inevitable fact that ‘stuff happens,’ that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, happens to all of us on occasion. But have you ever noticed that it seems to happen to some people more than others? Worse yet, have those of you in the staffing industry ever noticed that Murphy’s Law seems to happen to those you are trying to place at a ridiculously disproportionate rate than that of the rest of the population?

You go through hours upon hours of searching, calling, interviewing, processing, and orientating someone for a new assignment, only to discover a voicemail on your phone the next day (if they are courteous enough to leave one) explaining in graphic detail the sickness, transportation problem, legal issue, or pressing family matter that renders it impossible for them to show up for work.

Now granted, especially if you are placing basic light industrial, labor, and other entry-level, lower-paying jobs, some of this just comes with the territory. After all, although there are plenty of excellent workers we are privileged to help who are between jobs or just starting their careers (otherwise, we wouldn’t be in business!), there are always destined to be a number of folks who remain in these jobs seemingly their entire lives because, well, Murphy’s Law always seems to happen to them (try reading the last half of this sentence again in the voice of Eeyore and you’ll get my drift).

Perhaps the main reason some of these folks stay where they are and never really get anywhere is because ‘Murphy’ renders them unable to do the most basic thing required of all employees everywhere – come to work every day. Do we indeed ‘make’ our own luck? Could altering some of the choices we make alter the number of unwelcome visits Murphy makes in our lives? Assuming that they actually want to work and aren’t just being lazy (sometimes a big assumption, I know), here are three general ways Murphy ‘causes’ people to be absent from work or never even show up in the first place:


This one manifests itself in many ways, including seemingly never-ending mechanical troubles (they always just need to get one more part…), the lack of a vehicle, and lack of money for gas.

My apologies in advance, but this ‘gas woes’ excuse deserves a paragraph/rant all its own. Please don’t get me wrong, because I do understand that this could legitimately happen to someone who otherwise completely means well. However, we’ve just heard the ‘I just don’t have enough money for gas to get to work’ excuse too often and by too many different people for me not to want to rip my eyeballs out with a pen every time I hear it. Sure, paying $3.00+ a gallon is expensive, but unless they live three hours from work and are driving a school bus, even if they make minimum wage they would earn more than enough in one day to buy a tank of gas. If there ever was a textbook mentality that invites Murphy in for dinner and a long-term sojourn, the people who habitually use this for an excuse have it.

Of course, there are legitimate, very real transportation issues that we all face. I, myself, having been the sole ‘vehicle’ of two deer suicides in the past six months, can certainly understand this. But, the long-term inability to maintain adequate transportation is definitely a sign that one has a habit of making poor choices.


Whether it’s a fight with a girlfriend or spouse, a family member who constantly has to be toted to doctor appointments, social services, Walmart, and such, a kid who needs to be bailed out of jail, or an aunt who is away and needs her cats fed and yard mowed, family members always seem to keep certain people from doing the one thing they need to do to make a living – get to work! Of course, what employer wouldn’t say that ‘family is first,’ but is Aunt Mae’s dentist appointment really more important than a day’s pay?

Drugs and other legal issues

It’s such a simple series of steps – stay off drugs, pass a drug test, go to work – and yet so many people fall off the wagon at step one. Having never been addicted to drugs, I’ll admit that I can’t empathize, but in today’s information-filled, media-saturated world, before taking that first joint (or pill, or sniff, or whatever…), surely one must have some inkling of a clue that, hey, this might not be such a good idea. For heaven's sake, haven’t any of these people seen Breaking Bad?

Since people who do drugs typically tend to do other illegal stuff too, they are bound to land in the clink now and again. News flash – if you’re in jail you can’t be at work… unless you’re on work release, of course, then it’s a different matter altogether (Hey, don’t judge! Our work release temps are among the most dependable we’ve got! They are at work every day, are grateful for a job, are drug tested regularly, and don’t complain. Who could ask for more, right?).

There are plenty of other ways Murphy gets the best of us, but these seem to be the most common in the entry-level temporary world. It’s clearly a vicious cycle, but the real question is, how can it be reversed?

If I were counseling such a prospective employee (and I have), I would tell them in no uncertain terms that the most important decision they should make, every single day, is the decision to get out of bed and get to work, wherever and whatever that work is, barring extenuating, and I do mean extenuating, circumstances. Let that first good choice influence the other choices they make along the way, and they could be on their way to beating Murphy back, along with the wolf that’s constantly howling at their door.

Tags: Industry, Breaking bad, Murphy's Law, Eeyore