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?