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One of my friends has been asked out for coffee, and I'm posting in this forum for some suggestions on how to politely decline the invite.

The senior manager has asked this girl out for coffee on a weekend (this is the second time).

  1. He's asked before as well and the girl has declined it the first time politely.

  2. If the girl accepts the invite, then (since he's a senior and she's just a newbie in the company) her colleagues, if they come to know about it, will start saying things and exaggerate the whole situation.

  3. The girl is personally not interested in going out with the manager and is running out of options to politely decline the invite.

  4. The girl thought she could have a coffee in the office on a break, that would be a comfortable environment and formal as well, but that's bound to raise eyebrows because he's that much senior to the girl.

The girl doesn't want this to impact her career goals as she's just joined this company and he's established in the senior management.

How can my friend decline the invitation politely?

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    Related question: My boss' new hire, a friend of his, is making advances on me. – sleske Jul 6 '18 at 7:00
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    Is the manager clearly, 100%, no doubt asking her out on a date? Or is the manager using other phrases to describe the reason for the meeting? – mhoran_psprep Jul 6 '18 at 10:43
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    You mention two things in the question: she is a newbie and even if the coffee takes place at the workplace: "but that's bound to raise eyebrows because he's that much senior to the girl". Is she new to the company? then it could be a standard thing for a member of management to ask all new employees to coffee as a way to discuss how things are going. If this is true the part about the age difference is irrelevant. – mhoran_psprep Jul 6 '18 at 10:51
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    Is the Senior's behaviour unusual? Ie has he regularly asked other new hires (regardless of gender/age) out for weekend coffee, does he only invite new staff if they are young and female, or is this a first time thing? – mcalex Jul 9 '18 at 8:57
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    @Fattie India, given the poster's profile. – Philip Kendall Jul 9 '18 at 15:21
111

Stop beating around the bush. Decline politely but firmly: "thank you, but I'm not interested".

The girl doesn't want this to impact her career goals as she's just joined in this company and he's established in the senior management.

Declining a social invitation shouldn't impact on anyone's career goals. I'm not quite that naive as to believe that's true with every manager and every workplace, but I'd start with that belief until it's proved to be wrong.

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    And the manager continuing not to accept a "No" brings this into harrassment territory. – user44108 Jul 6 '18 at 6:35
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    "but I'd start with that belief until it's proved to be wrong." And go look for another job the moment it is. – Mast Jul 6 '18 at 13:30
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    @MarkRogers It's worth keeping in mind that the news, by definition, only reports on new things, aka unusual things. Seeing several distinct instances of something on the news a lot is not a good indicator for whether it's common. You see quite a few plane crashes on the news, but planes are still one of the safest ways to travel. I don't know if it actually is common (and, honestly, it might well be) but just seeing it on the news isn't a reason to think it's common, just that it happens. – Fund Monica's Lawsuit Jul 6 '18 at 17:13
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    @NicHartley - Sure, though the consensus seems to be moving towards retaliation happening far more than society as a whole initially suspected, thus the metoo movement. Its human nature to dislike rejection and to shun those who reject them. If someone had a choice and there was no severe consequences, people have a tendency to prefer to force people out instead of continuing to work with them. – Mark Rogers Jul 6 '18 at 18:13
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84

Being assertive without being aggressive is difficult, but so worth achieving.

Him: "Would you like to join me for coffee this weekend?"

Her: "No thank you."

No need to give a reason. No reason to be unpleasant (or to be unnecessarily pleasant, for that matter). Just a neutral "no thank you".

If he asks again next weekend, it's still "no thank you". He should get the hint after a few times.

If he pushes - e.g. "why not?" The answer is "I'd just rather not."

The point is to give no room for argument; nothing to hang an argument (or a hope) on. You can't really argue with "no thank you" or "I'd rather not".

There's no need to be rude.

As others have mentioned, if he goes any farther he is definitely in harassment territory, and it's time to explore options in that direction. But a clear, simple "no thanks, I'd rather not" is worth a try first.

  • +1 Clear, concise and doesn't risk offending anyone. Anyone who reacts badly to this is clearly unreasonable and couldn't be dealt with politely anyway – Lord Jebus VII Jul 6 '18 at 13:06
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    I'd recommend "Because I don't want to" instead of "I'd rather not". The former is more clear cut and assertive. Some people are daft enough to interpret "I'd rather not" as "I'm being hard to get, please keep trying". – Pharap Jul 8 '18 at 21:38
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    One thing that helps people get the message is not to vary what you say each time. If you keep saying different things, they may keep trying hoping you'll say something they like better. If your answer is perfectly consistent every time, there's a better chance they'll get the "hint". – David Schwartz Jul 9 '18 at 7:12
  • A key point is to not give reasons - a good answer. – Fattie Jul 9 '18 at 11:33
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This is a sticky situation.

First. let's be clear. Are you sure it's a date? As a manager or a senior, I would invite juniors out to lunch as team building. A kind of, look, I'm not in charge here, let's just have a conversation. It works well. It's always good to be friendly at work.

It's also not uncommon for a senior member to ask a junior out to something simple like lunch or coffee to get an "under the table" opinion. Especially if that person is doing very well or very poorly, or maybe the person is doing very good in all areas except one.

Again I have personally used lunch to say to a junior something like, "Your doing fantastic at these tasks, you could really get the promotion that is coming up this fall when Bar retires, but you gotta play nice with Baz. They don't like you, and they will stand in the way. I suggest you do xyz."

Now that said, "weekend" is a big red flag. So she has two options if she thinks this is a date and not work.

  1. Say yes and invite everyone. "Sure, I'll let Foo know. It could be fun to get together after work."
  2. Say yes and invite your boyfriend/husband. "Sure, I think my husband is free that afternoon. How's 3?"
  3. Say no, firmly. "I don't like hanging out with work people on my days off."

All these ways allow for him to back out and save face if it is a date, and allows him to communicate if it's not a date. What should happen (in my opinion, if it's a date) is that he just cancels.

Lastly, if he keeps pressing, then stop being nice. That simple.

  • In addition, place a framed photo of her with another man (a wedding photo, or her muscular boyfriend) on her desk. ;-) – Mike Waters Jul 7 '18 at 20:33
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    "Are you sure it's a date? As a manager or a senior, I would invite juniors out to lunch as team building." Yes, it's a weekend, and coffee. That's a date. As a manager/senior, I also make sure to have regular meetings with my "directs" (and everybody else I'm used to network with), but I make pretty sure that if there is any reason for doubt, whatsoever, we're not going alone. (Which is trivial; if the meeting needed to be private in the first place (maybe some tough matter at the workplace), we would not talk about it at lunch but in the office behind closed doors). – AnoE Jul 7 '18 at 22:25
  • @AnoE Completely agree. If it was grabbing a coffee in normal work time and chatting about work, then that's reasonably normal. Asking someone to join them for coffee in their own time, at a weekend, is not normal, and definitely in the "date" category. – berry120 Jul 9 '18 at 11:03
  • Sticky? The idea of asking a much much junior (and much younger) female out for coffee on the weekend, is psycho. – Fattie Jul 9 '18 at 11:35
  • While I admit that there is a red flag cause of the weekend, I have asked and have been asked to places to watch football games (both NFL and the other kind). Asked to go get drinks after work. Asked to go to dinners or lunches in off hours. Yes, these were social events but not all social events are dating. Sometimes, it's just an effort to build a better team or blow off some work-related stress, with people that have the same stress. One of the best and worst places I worked had unofficial lunches at least once a week. Frequent weekend get-togethers, and every Friday we met at the local ... – coteyr Jul 9 '18 at 13:17
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There is a great little word: "NO". Like "No, I have no interest in going out with you on the weekend “.

As a woman, she is likely accustomed to giving polite excuses. That doesn’t work with men. If she says “I can’t go out with you this weekend” he’ll take that as an invitation to ask again. If she says “no, I don’t want to go out with you”, that is a clear answer for him which clarifies the situation and saves him the pointless effort to ask her out again. So while she sees such an answer as impolite, to the man it is quite the opposite.

Again: “No, I don’t want to go out with you, not this weekend, not any other weekend. Don’t ask again.” That will do the job.

And again: To a man, that answer isn’t rude.

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    I agree that a clear "No" is the best answer. As a guy, I object to the "That doesn't work with men" paragraph (referring to making a polite excuse). It doesn't work with some men. Just like it doesn't work with some women. And the second to last paragraph is quite rude. Anyone would consider it rude. – DaveG Jul 6 '18 at 12:47
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    Who in their right mind would not consider “No, I don’t ever want to go out with you, and don’t ask me again!” to be rude? It is extremely rude and antagonistic. It’s one swear word short of “You disgust me, fuck off”. There is nothing in the question that suggests that anything even approaching this level of confrontationism is needed, or even warranted. The most likely effect of an answer like this is disciplinary action—as it should be. Regardless of rank or gender, this is no way to address a colleague. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 7 '18 at 10:56
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    Just in case it wasn't clear, "not this weekend, not any other weekend." is completely overkill. Also "Please don't ask again." would be better than "Don't ask again." especially with emphasis on the 'please'. – Pharap Jul 8 '18 at 21:41
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    Adding the word 'Please' in front of 'Don't ask again' imho removes a lot of the perceived rudeness. I'd maybe drop the 'not this weekend, not any other weekend' bit (partly because it sounds a bit 'green eggs and ham'-ish) to just go with: "No, I don’t want to go out with you. Please don’t ask me again." – mcalex Jul 9 '18 at 9:00
  • unnecessarily combative, would get heckles up and make an issue out of something that might not be. the manager has only asked twice, both barrels is not an appropriate response until they become insistent or argue. No need to escalate and make it uncomfortable in future. – nurgle Jul 9 '18 at 13:35
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The girl is personally not interested in going out with the manager...

This is the main thing that matters from those 4 options. A polite decline the should suffice at this point in time.

Given that this is the second time, a "No", "Im sorry Im not really up for it", "Sorry I have plans this weekend" etc should do it. After 2 times hopefully he will get the hint.

If this persists then a more stern approach will be needed "No, I don't want to", "I don't see colleagues in personal time", "Im sorry but Im not interested" something along those lines. This will make it clear that you are not interested now, nor any other time while having a polite but clear tone.

"The girl doesn't want this to impact her career goals as she's just joined in this company and he's established in the senior management."

Assume that it won't, she is declining an invitation which she is well within her rights to do. If this manager is vindictive enough and not willing to accept this answer then she can raise this to HR/line manager as she has done nothing wrong be politely declining and making her intentions clear.

  • I do agree with others that giving a specific reason why she can't get together on a specific day could leave some men with the thought that the reason may not apply on some other day, and that he should keep asking. If that's what she's been doing, shifting to a simple "No" makes sense as a next step; but eventually, a firm and long-term "No" may be required. – RDFozz Jul 6 '18 at 16:53
  • Yeah I agree, my reasoning was that you’re starting off by indicating without being direct, hinting basically, that she isn’t interested without being abrupt. A third time if he hasn’t got it by now is time for being more stern and clear. – UIO Jul 6 '18 at 18:32
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    "I don't see colleagues in personal time" this is the one answer that is unequivocably clear, professional and not confrontational. +1. – Tobia Tesan Jul 8 '18 at 9:58
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You've listed many reasons why she may not want to go out with him, but it's important for her to stick with the most basic. Tell him politely that she's personally not interested in him, and be done with it.

No one likes to be rejected and she'll presumably have a relationship with him going forward, so be kind and empathetic (couldn't disagree more with the answers suggesting a semi-rude response, there's simply no reason for it).

So why is it important to use this reason as opposed to one of the others you mentioned? Because things change and she could find herself in an awkward situation going forward.

Imagine telling him she doesn't want to date a superior, then having to find another excuse after a promotion. Or telling him she doesn't date coworkers, and later finding the person of her dreams who happens to work at the same company.

A combination of honesty and empathy is almost always the best policy.

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Here's an idea, stop being polite.

Realistically in a modern job market, your friend isn't going to keep this job forever. I'd also recommend telling HR about this to document the situation. Doing this provides a way to prove that the Senior is retaliating against your friend for not "Styling" his "Do" on a coffee date. This protects your friend and puts the senior at serious risk if he does anything to your friend for not having "coffee".

This is a situation where it's 100% necessary to fight the Senior management. Just gotta know how to fight them so that their potential punishing you allows you to punish them more. If it doesn't workout, your friend can always just find another company where Seniors don't try to intimidate Juniors into dates, assuming you're in the USA.

The goal here is to prevent your friend from having to use #metoo. That's more important than being nice.

-1

Ask that the coffee take place on site, in a break room or cafeteria. Don't worry about the age difference. In many places it is not unusual for management to buy coffee for junior employees to conduct a skip-level meeting. This allows management to talk to employees without the direct supervisor being in the meeting.

Of course if the manager insists that it must take place off site, and on a non-work day: Then in this case HR may be your friend. A polite question to HR about the policy would be advisable.

  • I like this, free coffee AND you get paid to drink it (assuming you swing it during office hours and not during a break). However I think OP would rather not have the coffee with them at all and this might just encourage it. A creative answer though that could emphasize that OP isn't against grabbing a coffee together but is only interested in a working relationship. – RyanfaeScotland Jul 6 '18 at 11:58
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    I'm not sure a compromise is a great way to get this to stop. – Andy Jul 6 '18 at 16:09
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    I think you are assuming that the intentions of the manager are honorable. My gut feeling (given the OP's description) is that they are not. – Peter M Jul 6 '18 at 17:23
  • This is an incredibly bad idea. – Fattie Jul 9 '18 at 11:25

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