Respectfully Declining a Recurring Invitation

by Daniel Post Senning on May 16, 2013

Q: We have a new manager in my department that is attempting to bring back together a 12 person team that had lost its cohesiveness and concept of a ‘team’ effort during the 2-year reign of an incompetent manager that was terminated a few months ago.

In the attempt to restore friendship amongst team members, the new manager is inviting team members out on a ‘casual’ basis to happy hours at a nearby bar after work one night per week.

I’m not a large drinker and don’t want to be perceived as a party-pooper but I prefer not to interact with my co-workers on a social level. I don’t particularly dislike my co-workers but I don’t particularly care for them either.

Most of them are single and do not have children so they are free for these after-hours outings. If I were coming home to a husband and/or children it might be easier to make excuses, but my husband works second shift and my co-workers all know I’m otherwise coming home to an empty house.

How do I politely decline the weekly invitations to these happy hour outings and still retain the appearance of a team player?

A: Your best course of action is to simply talk to your manager privately, and tell him/her that while you are very enthusiastic about the idea of team-building within your department, you don’t feel comfortable in the bar atmosphere. You should use the utmost tact and diplomacy in your discussion, and take care not to offend your manager in his/her admirable efforts to boost team morale.

While I can’t specifically comment on ways in which you can dedicate yourself to being a team player during work hours, I can suggest that you base your solution on the underlying principles of etiquette: respect for others and yourself, honesty in your examination of the problem and in your communications, and consideration of and kindness towards others.

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