Scripts

How to Say No to Work ‘Fun’

It’s totally okay to not want to hang out with your colleagues outside of work

Madison Malone Kircher
Forge
Published in
4 min readAug 20, 2019

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Credit: Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

ToTo have co-workers is to have co-workers invite you to things. After-work happy hours. Birthday parties on Friday nights. Picnics in backyards, or parks, or on rooftops. From time to time, or if you’re an especially social person, these events can be fun to attend. But for some of us, they can also feel like an inescapable trap.

And you know what? It’s totally okay to not want to hang out with your colleagues outside of work. You owe your job and your co-workers your time during the work day. You should, in theory, have your evenings and weekends to yourself — but that’s not really how the world works. There’s awkwardness and guilt to consider, not to mention office politics.

Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, says work-related events are all about balance and boundaries. “While it’s a good idea to join your team occasionally, allowing the after-hour events to monopolize your family or social life is a choice,” Gottsman says. “It’s important to set reasonable boundaries without coming off as if you are rude or disinterested.”

Here’s how to get out of office “fun” with respect and tact.

Act fast

If you know right away that you aren’t going to attend an event, whether because you genuinely have a conflict or because you just know in your gut that you don’t want to go, let the inviter know as soon as you can. Don’t be the person who RSVPs “maybe” to a Facebook event to buy time. The problem with this is it can come across as “shopping for a better option,” Gottsman explains. And it can inconvenience your host, who may need to plan logistics (think dinner reservations or concert tickets).

Once you’ve made your decision, commit to it. It will make you feel better to not have it weighing you down and it won’t require your host to awkwardly keep checking back. Plus, they won’t secretly loathe you for stringing them along.

Avoid saying something like “next time” — unless you really are interested in joining the group next time.

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Madison Malone Kircher
Forge
Writer for

Madison Malone Kircher is a staff writer at New York Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn. Twitter: @4evrmalone