Just because we like all of our employees and co-workers doesn’t mean that we have to spend our spare time with them, but it can be difficult to turn down a social invitation when it is offered in a pleasant manner, with the best of intentions.
If you are simply being asked to go along with a few fellow employees to lunch, it is easy enough to decline if you are busy with work-related issues, and it is fine to just say “No, thank you.” Of course, you may eventually need to consider going, at least once, if it is a regular office ritual and you have already declined several times.
If you are invited, by phone or in person, to attend a gathering outside of office hours, you should respond in the same manner. That is, you should make your decision in a timely manner, and then call or meet with whomever has offered the invitation and either accept or decline.
A more formal invitation requires that you meet certain requirements, such as sending a RSVP. A follow-up call to show interest in the event is always nice and can go a long way toward soothing feelings and show that you were thinking of those who invited you, even though you weren’t in attendance.
It is never helpful to make up stories or excuses when declining an invitation, and doing so can actually make an easy situation difficult and lead to suspicion and hurt feelings.
Most people will readily accept your refusal, if they feel it is nothing personal and you are being honest with them. By honest, we don’t mean that you have to apologize or feel guilty in any way. Just stating that you can’t attend and thanking the person offering an invitation is enough in almost every situation, and you will rarely, if ever, need a complicated, drawn out explanation. If you respond in the way that you would feel comfortable being spoken to in the same situation, you will handle almost any situation appropriately.