I am working for a client, fulltime, on another company's behalf. I have a manager on the company side that's fond of organizing 'extra-curricular' activities: Meetings organized outside of work hours about semi-work-related topics, that don't count as overtime because they're not seen as direct work for the client. As such, he can't make attending them mandatory.

Most of the times I can just decline these meetings (I would say I decline about one such meeting each week), but on average 3 to 4 times a year a meeting comes by where I'm repeatedly asked to attend on the pretense that my participation is absolutely necessary. I have a problem with not being able to decline this latter category of meetings, because if you can make me feel I have been pestered about something long enough, I will give in. For these work meetings, this usually means I decline several invites, and then get a call, and give in during the call.

A recent example is the meeting he's been asking me to attend for the past few weeks, claiming that I really need to be present. The first invite did not state I was really needed, so I just declined without further comment. Then there were two invites that stated he wanted to find a time where I could come too, so I declined again, asking him to clarify why I was needed, and stating that I would not attend without getting a solid explanation of why I should give up my free time for this first.

Last week I declined the 4th invite in a similar way, and today I got a call from him. During this call, I've asked him what the purpose of the meeting was, only to be told it's apparently some fun, cool and very vague thing related to UX (user experience), basically repeating the title of the outlook invites. I told him my job is not related to UX, and I have no relevant knowledge on the subject, nor is acquiring such knowledge on my personal development plan for this year/the longer term.

When he insisted upon my presence and finding a time that worked for me, I asked him what my specific role in this meeting would be, and what I should be prepared to bring to it. He has not given a straight answer to that, instead he has avoided answering the first in favor of stating that I "Shouldn't worry about having to come prepared". Repeating the first question (what my role in this meeting would be) got me nothing more than 'I want you to be there too'. Both replies only strengthen my belief that this is just another waste of my time.

Finally, I have also told him that I am not sharing his enthusiasm about this meeting, because he can't give me a clear reason as to why I should give up my private time to be there. And that I know from previous, similar meetings that if he can't give me a clear reason for insisting upon my presence, I will end up not being needed. So, I again asked him to explain why I really needed to there, to be faced with as much as a 'just because'.

Since he wasn't going to relent, after this phone call going on in circles for around 20 minutes, I just said I'd be there. I got tired of dealing with this, enabling his behavior. Even worse, I've again confirmed a precedent: If you pester me long enough, I will eventually give in without you having to disclose why I need to be there, and spend my free time being obsolete in your meeting.

I'm sure a next time will come, so:

How do I decline a meeting invite where my manager can't make attendance mandatory, in a way that will:

  • makes sure I won't be asked again or
  • get me a clear explanation of why I should be there and
  • allows me to break the precedent I set by usually giving in to these invites eventually?
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – A J
    Feb 16, 2021 at 4:15

2 Answers 2


This sounds like, in the end, you are going to need to grit your teeth and stand your ground. But they are a few things you could try before that.

If those are work meetings, the easiest solution would just be to say "Sorry, I'm not available at this time but this <other time within work hours> works for me".

I work part-time so this issue often occurs and I never had any problem with doing that. Though, from time to time, I accept to stay longer with the assumption that I will be working less time the following day. On another occasion, a special (but late) meeting was recorded and people were able to watch it during their work hours after that if they weren't available to attend.

On the other hand, if those meetings aren't supposed to be work, just quietly decline without giving any reason and, if asked, just say "I'm not interested". Do not give any other reasons and do not develop!

When people are trying to "negotiate", the best way to shut them down is to not give them anything. If you keep saying the same thing over and over again, they won't have any other choice than to drop it eventually.

This technic was used on me several times and it was very frustrating for me but it worked incredibly well for the other person. I kept asking "why" but the other person wasn't telling me anything and I had to drop it rather quickly.

Also, please remember that if your manager is trying to force you to participate in something that you are not paid for, it is illegal. You do not owe your manager anything outside of work. And your free time is ours only.

Yes, not participating even though your manager wants you to might have negative repercussions for your career in this company. But your manager is still in the wrong! (and if it's the culture in this company to work unpaid overtime, you might want to consider switching company).

As a side note, if you still want to decline a meeting after "accidentally" saying yes, just say:

Sorry, I won't (be able to) come after all.

And leave it at that. You have the right to decline those meetings and you don't owe anyone any explanation. Especially when it comes to your personal life.

  • 1
    Hi Ael! Just a heads-up: I've added a bit more context to my question. I personally don't think it invalidated anything from your answer, but in case you want to add something to it based on the extra context, do feel free :-)
    – Tinkeringbell
    Feb 15, 2021 at 16:58

Personal Experience

I have had few seniors who used to say that I am their good friend to get more than what I get paid for. This helps the organization, no doubt. This relation can be healthy too. Few people take their role very seriously and do not pay attention to their own personal time. However, the majority of the time, it is for personal gains. I need my personal space and time. I had realized that these people are using friendly relations to exploit my time. To convey that it's a straight professional only relation and any friendly ties do not obligate me. I gave the reply in writing. One letter conveyed much more than what I could convey say in a lengthy conversation.

Therefore you should give a written explanation for not attending and ask for the record a written explanation on how he is asking for your attendance when it's not part of your job profile. The writing process gives some seriousness to your refusal and will force your manager to rethink his strategy.

Even If he makes this request as a personal favor that you can't identify, this process will clarify things to him.

  • Hi raghu! Welcome to IPS. It seems like the solution you're offering is something you've tried before, could you please edit your answer to explain how you were in a similar situation and which outcome to expect? We expect answers on IPS to be backed up with citations that prove the suggested approach would work. Let me know if you need help or if you have further questions about our citations expectations. Have a great time among us!
    – avazula
    Feb 19, 2021 at 7:36
  • thankyou for the guidance
    – raghu
    Feb 19, 2021 at 7:42

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