Social & Interpersonal Skills

How to Get Out of a Work Event Without Causing Negative Feelings

Picture this: It’s Friday. You’re excited to finally be able to do your own thing during the weekend (whether it’s a hobby, family time, or just relaxing). Just as you’re finishing up your work, a co-worker (or maybe it’s your supervisor) comes up and invites you to a work social event the next day. 

Uh oh! You’ll find yourself in a tough situation. On the one hand, you don’t want to go at all. On the other hand, you don’t want to hurt anyone. Well, I’m here to tell you how to get out of a work event without causing negative feelings. But first…

Should You Attend Social Work Events You Don’t Want to Go To?

OK, say you’re not brave enough to say no to work event invitations. So you decide to ditch your weekend plans to attend, even though every part of your body doesn’t want to be there. Is this a good idea?

It’s not. For one, this might make you miss out on more important things, like self-care, family bonding, hobbies and interests, etc… Here’s what Stacey Lastoe from The Muse has to say: 

Sure, you could keep dragging yourself to events that you have no real interest in, but keeping this charade up is exhausting and not always productive. As long as you’re happy with the rest of your job —you feel respected, your ideas are heard, you enjoy the work you’re doing— it’s OK to let this one thing go.

That said, it’s also not a good idea to skip every single work event. You have to be respectful and show courtesy when it comes to these things, especially if the event is mandatory in the first place. What’s more, to be a great team player, you have to find time to bond with your colleagues (and what better way to do that than at a social event?). 

So how do you balance it out? Here’s helpful advice from Sarah Greesonbach from Glassdoor:

  • It’s best not to excuse yourself from one big, blow-out seasonal holiday that happens every year. It will be a big deal if you miss that. 
  • If your company hosts an event each month, you can likely go once every two or three months.
  • If your company has weekly happy hours or get-together dinners, you can tag along at least once or twice a month. 

The more social work events your company holds, the better your chances of escaping it without causing any negative feelings. 

Why It’s Perfectly OK to Avoid Work Social Events

Yes, working well with your team members is crucial for productivity, communication, and job satisfaction. However, you’re never obligated to become best friends forever with your coworkers. It’s possible to get along well with people if you only see them in a professional setting.

Moreover, everyone has a life outside of work. Your boss, colleagues, or work friends will understand that there are more important things than to attend an event. Here’s how Alyse Kalish from The Muse puts it:

Chances are, there have also been plenty of instances when they’ve had to miss out on a team activity because something else was more important.

So don’t feel bad if you cancel social events outside work. For the most part, people will understand that family, hobbies, and personal preferences come first. 

Read More: 6 Surprising Reasons Why Work Colleagues Are Not Your Friends

How to Decline a Get-Together Outside of Work

OK, let’s say you’re wondering how to get out of a work dinner or other gatherings. Well, here is how to politely decline the invitation: 

  • Express your gratitude 
  • Focus on your decision
  • Encourage them to invite you next time

Express your gratitude

“Hey, we’re planning a dinner this weekend to celebrate Sarah’s birthday. You should definitely come and have some fun with us!” If you can’t come (or don’t want to), you can politely decline by showing your gratitude for the invitation first and foremost. You can respond with, “Thanks for inviting me! But ____”, “Sounds like fun! Unfortunately ____”, or something along those lines. 

Showing gratitude when you decline an invitation is important because it shows you appreciate the invite, keeps things positive, and leaves the door open for future get-togethers. Plus, it’s just good manners!

Focus on your decision

After you thank them for the invite, you can go on to say that you can’t (or won’t) make it. Now, you can choose to go into detail. Here are a few examples:

“I won’t be able to make it tonight. I’m assisting my child with a school project.”

“I’d love to join, but I have a project to work on for tomorrow’s meeting.”

“You know how much I enjoy spending time with everyone, but to be honest, [activity] isn’t really my cup of tea.” (Talk about being completely honest.)

“I have a date that I’ve been excited about, and I won’t be canceling on this one. Sorry.”

Of course, you don’t have to give any explanation if you don’t want to. Alison Green, the owner of the Ask A Manager website says:

It’s really not their business why you can’t make it, you simply can’t make it. And if your “previously scheduled engagement” happens to be meeting your spouse on the couch to watch “Stranger Things”, so be it.

Here are some examples you can use without providing many details:

“Sorry, I have to say “no” at this time because I already made plans.”

“I’m sorry I can’t make it, but have a great time!” 

Encourage them to invite you next time

If you wanted to go but just couldn’t, this is a great way to end it without any awkwardness. OK, it’s the best ending, even if you’re an introvert and don’t want to spend time with your coworkers outside.

For this, you can say something along the lines of, “Can you mark me down for the next one?”, “Save a spot for me in the next one, won’t you?”, etc. This will end everything on a positive note. 

How to Get Out of a Work Event

A survey by Travel Perk showed that 88% of companies are planning more events and team gatherings from 2022 to 2024 and on. Most likely, your company is going to have a few work events lined up. 

 If you’re not attending work social events, then here’s how to get out of it without causing negative feelings:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute
  • Come up with great reasons
  • Leave early

Don’t wait until the last minute

Canceling a social work event last minute can be a bummer because it messes with plans and leaves people hanging. In turn, this can cause negative feelings towards you. 

This is why, if you can’t make an event (or don’t want to), you have to inform the event planner as early as possible. Don’t shy away and say “I’ll see if I can make it”. Better to tell them now than later. 

But let’s say something unexpected came up, maybe a family emergency. You’ll want to know how to get out of a work event last minute. In this case, you just have to be completely honest. Say you’re sorry for the inconvenience and that you hope it didn’t cause any last-minute scrambling. 

Come up with great reasons

If you just don’t want to attend a social work event, you should come up with excuses for not attending an event in advance. This will help you plan out believable reasons. It’ll also help you word it out so that it doesn’t come out offensive or personal. 

Leave early

What if you can’t say no? Maybe the event is mandatory or you’re too scared to speak out. You can get out of this situation by leaving early. At least you did attend, even for just a short time. 

Here are some examples of how you can leave early:

“Thanks a lot for hosting! I’d love to stick around, but I have another commitment to attend to.”

“This has been an awesome time. I hate to cut it short, but I promised my [spouse/significant other] I’d be home by 4 PM.”

Final Words

It’s vital that you know how to get out of a work event without causing negative feelings. Sure, you’re not obligated to go to every event (most times, everyone will understand). Still, it’s important to know how to do it in the right and polite way. 

So go ahead and follow my tips and examples:

  • Show gratitude for the invitation
  • Focus on your decision
  • Encourage them to invite you next time
  • Don’t cancel at the last minute
  • Come up with good reasons
  • Leave early
About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

No Comments

    Leave a Reply