How To

What to say to coworkers when you don’t want to be around them

While you should always strive to do your best at work and build professional relationships with your coworkers, that doesn’t mean you should give every minute of your workday over to other people.

Here’s how to make it clear that you sometimes need to be alone at work.

How to get out of going to a meeting — within reason

It’s entirely possible to get better at saying “no.”

If you have way too many meetings on your calendar, but there’s one that you can you think you’re able to skip, you should tell the organizer that you’ll be working on a big project for a specified amount of time.

But don’t forget to offer to assist them with something else at another time.

How to skip lunch with coworkers

Alison Green, author of the Ask a Manager blog, answers a reader’s question in Inc. about how to get out of invitations to lunch dates with persistent coworkers and managers, for various reasons:

“If you say something that is essentially ‘I don’t want to spend time with you,’ you can’t really avoid alienating people. So you need an answer that’s about what you are doing with that time instead — an answer that’s about doing X, rather than not doing Y. For instance, you could explain that you’re running errands at lunch, or like to spend that time walking and decompressing, or that you usually read at lunch. And you have to say in a way that still sounds friendly. There’s a difference between ‘No, I read at lunch’ and ‘Oh, no thank you, I usually read at lunch, but thanks for asking me!’ ”

Green goes on to write that you should get lunch with your coworkers “occasionally” and what to do about meeting with the reader’s boss over lunch, among many other points.

How to get out of an after-hours work engagement

Greatist features advice from Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, on what to do when you’re excited about a spin class at 6 p.m., but your colleagues ask you out for happy hour:

“The solution: Tell them, ‘Sounds like fun, but I’m going to take a pass tonight. I have a prior commitment,’ Gottsman says. That should be plenty, but working in close quarters can lead to follow-up questions. If they press you, tell them, ‘I scheduled a workout tonight, and I will really feel bad if I skip the gym again!’ Gottsman suggests. Remember: You have to set your own priorities and respect them as well.”

However, the piece also offers advice on why you should attend “networking events,” what happens if you say no to colleagues’ requests many times, and more.

We don’t recommend that you skip out on opportunities to meet up with those you work with often — whether it’s a work or social setting — but it’s wise to carve out more time for yourself when you can.

Jane Burnett is a reporter for Ladders. She is based in New York City and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.