How can I avoid my coworkers after work?
May 9, 2010 2:28 PM   Subscribe

How can I avoid my coworkers after work?

I am introvert who works in an open office environment surrounded by loud extroverts. It's draining just to sit next to them. After spending 9-10 hours in close proximity, the last thing I want to do is spend another couple hours with them sitting at some cheesy bar eating nasty pub food and listening to them gossip about each other. I hate drinking too - at best I can't concentrate on anything afterwards and I sleep poorly; at worst I end up throwing up and feeling horrible the next day. Going out with my coworkers literally feels like extra work to me; I only do it to keep up appearances.

What's more, I'm on assignment in another city and they know that I'm by myself here, so I can't use any excuse of having to meet other friends or going home to my girlfriend.

The worst thing for me is probably a late Friday afternoon when I'm just about ready to go home and enjoy a quiet evening to myself, when somebody suddenly drops by and announces that we should all go out for drinks. My heart sinks at this point. It's the equivalent of the boss coming over and dumping a stack of work on me right before I leave. I don't know how to excuse myself. These are the type of people who are militantly insistent on people attending social events and drinking (and if you don't go, you're "boring" or "no fun"). I have social anxiety and have a hard time simply putting my foot down and enduring the slagging that would follow.

The guys who want to go out are all extroverted, WASPy, and stereotypically masculine. I am none of these things, yet somehow they always invite me. There's some people they never seem to invite along; these are either foreign or married. Unfortunately I don't fall into this category either.

I understand that they feel they're being inclusive and friendly by expecting me to come out with them, but I would honestly prefer to keep my free time to myself. How can I gracefully excuse myself from going out with them while keeping up a civil working relationship?

If you'd prefer to answer by e-mail:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You could tell them that you want to get in a good work-out after work or you're taking some kind of class on Friday nights (a hobby class like woodworking or career-booster-type class in something in your field) or that you have a date or some other kind of masculine activity that will allow you an out and maybe a manly shoulder-punch to boot. Then, every once in a while, go along with the crowd just to keep up appearances.
posted by greta simone at 2:36 PM on May 9, 2010

I think "No thanks, I can't make it" is the phrase you're searching for.

"No thanks, I can't make it this time."
"Oh come on, don't be a drag."
"Sorry, I can't make it."
"You're being boring!"
"That may be, but I still can't make it. Have fun!"
posted by ottereroticist at 2:37 PM on May 9, 2010 [17 favorites]

I don't understand the problem. Say "no, sorry, I can't tonight, I've got things planned." You don't need to elaborate. ("oh really? what are you up to?" "oh, you know, just a busy night." repeat as needed), and then you go home. They're inviting you because you always go so they think you want to and they're being nice, you are under no obligation to say yes. Just say no. It's not that hard. So they say you're "no fun," they'll get over it in like 5 minutes. Just say no, dude.
posted by brainmouse at 2:38 PM on May 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

The graceful excuse is: "No thanks, I don't drink, have a good time though and I'll see you tomorrow/Monday."

But you said they're militantly insistent and will tease/berate people who don't join them. So maybe don't be graceful, just say no and leave? If its a temporary assignment with people you won't see again after the assignment is over, I would stop worrying about offending them and just suit yourself.
posted by ish__ at 2:39 PM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Everyone needs alone time. If you're not comfortable telling them a simple "oh, I can't make it tonight" (they nag/hassle you), then another option would be to come up with some hobby or project you need to do that takes up a lot of time, or better yet, occurs early on Saturday mornings. I understand your annoyance that having a wife/girlfriend is the only "legitimate" excuse in their eyes. Don't force yourself to go if you don't want! You say you're on assignment in another city -- does that mean you will be leaving soon? If so, you definitely don't need to worry about going every time just to keep up appearances (perhaps a bit more important if these were people who you will have to work with for years). Own your time!
posted by mokudekiru at 2:39 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Not tonight, me and the girlfriend have plans know TALK, tonight."

"What, come on, you can talk anytime, Sammy's has a great martini!"

"Dude, what are you not getting here? Me. Girlfriend. Alone on the phone. Do I have to fuckin' spell out here?! I'm on assignment in another city, it's the only way I'm getting any, so unless you're growing some boobs and losing that receding hairline, I'm gonna go with with alternate plans tonight. Maybe next time.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:45 PM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just say, "no thank you, I can't make it" enough times and they'll stop asking you. You'll never be of their friends, but it doesn't sound like you want to be.
posted by planet at 2:50 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

maybe you could befriend some of your foreign coworkers and ask them to do things on Friday nights (quieter activities).
posted by bearette at 2:51 PM on May 9, 2010

What's more, I'm on assignment in another city and they know that I'm by myself here, so I can't use any excuse of having to meet other friends or going home to my girlfriend.

That's tough, I can see why it's hard to say no. Can you come in early on Fridays and leave early? Can you sneak out of the office without being seen? Can you catch a ride home with one of the staff members not going?
posted by gillianr at 2:54 PM on May 9, 2010

I nth everyone who stated, just say "no thanks"... simple... don't lie, don't sneak, don't make up excuses, just say no thanks... you won't have to remember when you used that last excuse, what lie you told them...

You'll only need to do this a few times.....
posted by HuronBob at 3:00 PM on May 9, 2010

Definitely say "Sorry, I can't make it." They will try to cajole you. Your next response should be, "I can't make it, but you guys have fun!"

Usually telling the person to "have fun" nips the conversation in the bud faster than further protestations on your part. Somehow there's a finality to it. I mention this because if you have trouble saying no, then this should allow you to get out of the uncomfortable conversation as quickly as possible.

You owe no one an explanation. If they come up with their own ideas ("Oh, do you have to X, Y or Z?"), just nod and smile instead of giving them any kind of answer.
posted by wwartorff at 3:05 PM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Be grateful that they want to include you, it is actually a kindness. But you don't have to join them.

As everyone says, tell them, "Sounds like fun, but no thanks, I have other plans." Join a gym, or get tickets to some event if you don't feel you can lie.
posted by fifilaru at 3:10 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

As someone who is quite social and likes to go out with people from work, it took one person saying to me "Look I appreciate you inviting me but I'm kind of introverted and just don't like hanging out with work people after work" to get the hint that maybe hanging out with people from work wasn't everyone's idea of fun.
posted by Admira at 3:30 PM on May 9, 2010 [9 favorites]

Maybe try a happy medium -- go out for one drink, then take off. I think it's important to take advantage of good relations with co-workers, and at least making a gesture toward socializing with them is a good thing.
posted by jayder at 3:41 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd say either nut up and say you don't want to, or lie. You probably don't even have to lie. Join a gym (as others suggested) or say you don't drink.
posted by Lizsterr at 3:58 PM on May 9, 2010

I think part of the issue is that even though you don't WANT to be there, you have gone out with them, consistently. Under duress, yes, but you've still caved and tagged along. Once you are able to say no to them a few weeks in a row using some of the above-detailed techniques, I'll bet they'll stop asking altogether and you'll be part of that 'other' category of co-workers.
posted by rachaelfaith at 4:04 PM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Wow, it's really nice of you to include me but:
I'm going to catch the 6:15 movie. Have fun.
I stayed up late reading, so I'm tired and I don't feel like going out. Have fun.
I have a headache, and a bar will make it worse. Have fun.
I don't drink, so bars aren't my favorite place. etc.

Once in a while, if you want to be social, find a movie you want to see and ask if anyone wants to go.
posted by theora55 at 4:06 PM on May 9, 2010

How long do you stick to your guns? The reason I ask is, it's kind of the expected response to heckle someone good-naturedly for a minute or two when they turn down an invitation to go out on the town. I mean, that's really the most graceful way for the conversation to end.
It goes, "Hey, lets go out and have a few drinks tonight, what do you say?"
"No thanks. I'm kind of tired, I may just crash early at home."
"Ah, sleep is for the weak! Don't be so boring!"
"Nah, thanks. Maybe next time."
[variations on the last two lines repeated a few times]
Then the conversation moves on, with maybe a gratuitous shot from time to time in humor, "Hey, Tom, you're coming tonight, right? Anonymous is being a slug." To which you just smile ruefully and nod.

That's better than "Hey, lets go out and have a few drinks tonight, what do you say?" "No." "Oh." [awkward pause in conversation]
posted by ctmf at 4:15 PM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have this problem with my co-workers, too. "I have plans" is a poor excuse because it inevitably leads to an inquisition regarding your plans. Here are plans I've found to be "acceptable" excuses to people like this:
- anything involving family, particularly if you are married and have children
- anything romantic, unless you use a girlfriend as your excuse "allllll the tiiiime, man!"
- anything involving other people or a significant, un-recoverable investment

By the last, I mean that "going to the gym" will usually get ribbing (you could go anytime! go after the bar! go tomorrow morning!), but "going to a concert," "going to a pottery class," etc, will generally be respected. Your bros don't want you to stand anyone up (unless it's your lame girlfriend) or lose money just to drink with them. But they DEFINITELY want to rescue you from quiet time alone at home, and injecting any modicum of mystery into your evening plans is only going to make them more curious. Either get involved in an activity, or pretend to.
posted by telegraph at 4:19 PM on May 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

You could try, "Oh, that sounds great. I've got something I've got to take care of though, so why don't you tell me where you're meeting and I'll try to catch up with you all." Then pretend to take down where they're meeting, and go home and forget it. If they mention it, just tell them you sat down on the bed and the next thing you knew you'd fallen asleep, or just something even more vague. Got busy - got into a fight on the phone with my girlfriend, etc etc.
posted by lemniskate at 4:22 PM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree that telling them that you have specific plans is inviting them to critique those plans, and that "have fun" is a magical phrase that somehow indicates that you're not judging them.

Sorry, not tonight, but have fun! Sorry, not tonight, but have fun! Aw, not tonight, but have fun! Thanks, but not tonight, have fun! Ohh, not up for that, but have fun! Sorry, no. No. Aww, I can't. Nope.

They'll stop including you eventually.
posted by desuetude at 4:53 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is it possible to agree that you might go and then just not show up? Or do they all travel together? It's a little passive-aggressive, but sometimes I'll say "ok, I'll try to make it" and then I go home once they're gone. Whether you say you worked late or caught a movie, there's not much arguing they can do after the fact.

Obviously this only works as an occasional escape. I mix this approach with legitimate excuses and sometimes joining them.
posted by parkerjackson at 5:55 PM on May 9, 2010

I only do it to keep up appearances.

If you want to keep up appearances, say yes to one invitation per month (or every third invitation, or whatever interval you want) and keep track of it. Say, "I can't make it tonight, sorry" when you receive an invitation that isn't on your "schedule." This way, you'll feel more in control of the situation, but you won't alienate your coworkers. I'd suggest that this is the better option--and quit drinking when you go out with them! Order a soda or something. Maintaining positive social connections with your coworkers doesn't require that you make yourself physically ill.

If you want them to stop inviting you, period, say "I can't make it tonight, sorry" every single time. They will stop asking.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:05 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you decide to come up with a Friday night obligation (fictional or otherwise) to use as an excuse, one thing that really helps is if you tell them that you're meeting other people there, and you're the transportation for at least one of them. I meet some friends at the climbing gym a few times a week, and while people might try to talk me out of going, they quickly give up when I explain that I'm giving a friend a ride as well.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:12 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Super-weird to see how many people feel the need to contrive an excuse in this scenario. Why would you bother to lie? It just seems like asking to be hassled some more.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:01 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd advise against lying or the blank 'I can't make it'. Both of those could be politely enquired about ("oh, what have you got on?") that would lead into more lying or an uncomfortable and perhaps rude silence.

I think it's fine to say "I just need an evening to myself, maybe I'll catch you guys next time. Have fun though!" They might playfully press the issue with a "c'mon, it'll be fun", but if they have a clue about people then they'll realise that you're not into it and will move on.
posted by twirlypen at 7:52 PM on May 9, 2010

Say, "No, thanks." You don't need to lie, and you don't need to elaborate. You are saying no, politely, and if they continue on, just say, "No, sorry. Thanks for inviting me." If they ask idiot questions like "What are you doing instead?" or "Don't be boring!" or whatever the hell they do, just say, "Really, I appreciate it, it's kind of you to ask, but I'm not going." They'll give up.

Don't lie. It leads nowhere good. Don't go out of your way to *find* something else to do so you have an "excuse," it's entirely unnecessary.

Take a look at this recent MetaTalk thread, and the thread to which it refers. I bet they'll help.
posted by tzikeh at 7:53 PM on May 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Er, read the original thread first, then the MetaTalk thread. It'll make more sense.
posted by tzikeh at 7:54 PM on May 9, 2010

Tell them "Sure, when and where? I'll meet you there" ...and then just don't show up. Sound stupid? Not in your situation. When (or if) they ask you why you didn't show up, tell them something came up. Repeat for however long it takes, and you will no longer even be invited.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 7:55 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

An option that I don't think has been mentioned yet: you can tell them that you're paying off a mortgage or personal loan or student debt, or maybe saving for a deposit on a house, and that you simply can't afford to paint the town red like you used to.

People tend to respect that kind of financial responsibility (even if you're "no fun" they'll realise that financial hardship is even less fun) and it has the benefit of being an excuse that never really goes away.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:40 PM on May 9, 2010

I'd say, "I'd love to, but I haven't been feeling well recently. I'm going to have to beg off... it could be a migraine (flu/allergy attack/mono/pinkeye)." Not a lie, you haven't, as you haven't had time to recharge and relax, and the stress can make you physically ill. For added effect, be even more quiet than usual, and rub your forehead all day, as if you were really feeling ill. It's hard to argue against illness without being seen as a total douche.
posted by mornie_alantie at 8:44 PM on May 9, 2010

Sounds like you're suffering from what is fundamentally a high-pressure sales pitch. Maybe it would help you to mentally re-categorize them as used car salesmen/saleswomen?

You can't blame a salesman for doing everything in his power to get you to sign on to his/her deal; you can only blame yourself for falling for it. Don't buy the line of bull.

Bottom line you need to be less of a sucker for repetition and emotional appeals. They're not going to lose any sleep over it, and "no" does get easier with dilligent practice.
posted by Ys at 9:10 PM on May 9, 2010

Oh wow, so is that how it is? I would say no most of the time because I really would have to be back home. They were always cool with it. I'm social but I like to spend a lot of time with myself. It never seemed to sway my co-workers one way or the other. But I'm not into that bar scene too much with co-workers because drinks bring out the gossip in you and them. And it's way too cliquey for my taste. Be you. Obviously they think you're cool enough to chill with them. You really don't have to say yes.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 9:37 PM on May 9, 2010

"Oh, thanks but I'm exhausted."
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:38 AM on May 10, 2010

I think once you've been firm a few times, they'll back off and it will get a lot easier.

At the moment I suspect you're seen as someone who has, or wants, to be cajoled. "Oh, he always worries, but he has a great time once he's out there!"
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:46 AM on May 10, 2010

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