I'm hosting a meeting and the topic concerns a lot of people in our team but I want to keep it focused and invite only several people as a kickoff.

I don't want to invite one specific colleague because most probably it will lead to a conflict between him and another meeting participant.

Now the issue is that the guy whom I want to exclude from the meeting saw it in my calendar and has asked me to invite him as well. I don't like it because I didn't invite him and it is not polite to ask me like this. I need to say something to him and state the reason why he can't join.

I don't want to be very direct, because he has this sort of escalation culture. Once he is upset he will email management. What are the perfect phrases to explain to him the truth? How to approach this?

  • 2
    Whats his role, what is your role? Is is a team matter or a project matter?
    – Sascha
    Jan 9, 2019 at 22:36
  • If the OP doesn't have the right to invite, why is Mr. Nasty asking the OP, and the person in charge? Jan 10, 2019 at 7:48
  • 3
    If the 'conflict' you expect is relevant to the project (eg Mr Trouble knows where the bodies are buried, and hence why everyone's lovely ideas won't work), you're better off finding out sooner rather than later. If Mr Trouble is always just plain trouble, to no useful purpose, what does it matter if he gets upset?
    – AakashM
    Jan 10, 2019 at 9:02

5 Answers 5


Presuming you are under no actual obligation to invite him (company policy or whatnot) then there's really no issue, also assuming 'several' is 20% or less of the whole team.

"This is just a small focus group....might not lead to anything, not worth your time right now."

If you're worried about his 'escalation', just give your management a heads-up about the limited scope of the meeting. Unless they specifically object, his reaction isn't your problem.

  • 2
    I like the approach of "this isn't worth your time" and think it could be expanded on. Define the meeting in such a way that the colleague does not want to attend.
    – DaveG
    Jan 9, 2019 at 19:06

If you do want to say smth then the smth you want to say is probably:

Steve, for that meeting I am not inviting key players like yourself. I am first briefing the four database guys. And the meeting won't be bigger than those four. Thanks for asking though.

I'd do that by email.

(Substitute "database" for any relevant bullshit tech word.)

If the person persists, simply totally ignore further communication.

An alternative is this:

Steve, that one is just an introductory meeting for the four database guys. The meeting won't be bigger than those four. Thanks for asking though.

the two keys to such a communication are:

  1. you have to be really specific - to shut down any silly "rebuttals". If you say "it's for participants" the person in question will assert they are a "participant". So be specific. (It's for Group XYZ only, it's for network programmers only, it's for juniors/seniors/Melbourne office only .. etc.)

  2. it's good to "put a number on it". Numbers confuse weak minds and usually end further enquiries.

Hope it helps!

  • Is there supposed to be more text after "say is probably:" or should it be merged with the sentence directly following it? It reads a bit weird right now.
    – Erik
    Jan 9, 2019 at 22:12
  • JS, while cynical and harsh, numbers do confuse, well, most or many folks. (It's commonplace that politicians, say, try to get over a point, by dazzling with statistics or numbers). It's cynical and harsh but putting in specific numbers in sentences often terminates such conversations and lets you "win". (This is an everyday technique taught to and used by salespeople, for example.)
    – Fattie
    Jan 10, 2019 at 15:39
  • {A trivial (cynical, harsh) example if, if you're trying to get out of paying a bill, "you will have the check soon" will result in further blah blah, but "you will have the check in 3 days at 4pm" will slow down and often just terminate the current blah blah from your opponent.} Because I'm morally awesome, and just don't care, I never use any such techniques in negotiation or discussions. But yes, it's a basic that "numbers used in sentences confuse, slow down the thought processes of, most folks" when you're in a negotiation or discussion or the kind of tête-à-tête in this QA.}
    – Fattie
    Jan 10, 2019 at 15:41
  • 1
    I like the " I am first briefing the four database guys" approach. I think you can even double down on that. Praise the guy that's asking to be involved. "I know you're already up to date on XYZ, but the database guys aren't. If I invite you, I know we two will be using the meeting to get started on doing XYZ, and those 4 guys will be even further behind.". Now the self-proclaimed expert either has to decline his expertise or miss the meeting.
    – MSalters
    Jan 10, 2019 at 19:39
  • great point @MSalters - throw in random praise. (One thing though, you don't want to be long-winded. It's best to make it a fait accompli and cut off any further discussion! heh!)
    – Fattie
    Jan 10, 2019 at 20:04

Assuming he will be on this project but just isn't needed for kickoff I'd go along with something along the lines of:

The target group for this meeting is only {subset of project team}. Sorry but we need to keep it small and focused. However I will need you in for the meeting where the whole project team will be there. Invites will be going out later this week/Invites were sent on XXX.

The last part is important as it validates the fact that he will have a forum to provide input.

If he won't be part of the project team and is more of a stakeholder I'd go with something like:

This meeting is going to be specifically for the {subset of the project team}. Everyone who is interested in this project will have an opportunity to offer input at the first stakeholder meeting. I'll keep you in the loop on when that will occur.

If he is someone who needlessly escalates, I'd tell your boss that you are nipping that in the bud and CC them on the response to him.


I don't want to invite one specific colleague because most probably it will lead to a conflict between him and another meeting participant.


Provided both are part of the project and the agenda encompasses their purview / tasks and level of hierarchy.

A) you're speculating about potential conflict

B) they both have a right and obligation to be there

C) conflict usually can easily be stopped in a meeting, violence or shouting during discussions is a firable offense


If the colleague in question is not part of the project, the meeting won't be informative or aide in his tasks or he is not in a leadership or decision making role.

In this case have a look at the other answers providing potential wordings / approaches.


The below is all assuming this colleague who wants to be part of the meeting actually is part of the project that the meeting is about. If he is not, then simply say "sorry, this meeting is for project participants only", and leave it at that. If this colleague insists on attending the meeting despite not being part of the project, then have a chat with his manager: "Joe is not part of my project right now, but he asked to be a contributor. Can we have Joe on our team?" Then if the manager says "sure", you have an extra developer to assign tasks to, and you should expect the colleague to contribute equally to the other team members going forward (and if he doesn't, then you should report him to his manager for insubordination). In the vastly more likely case that the manager says "No, Joe has his own work to do", you forward that message to your colleague: "Sorry, I asked for you to be added to my team, but your manager declined. As a result, I'm not going to invite you to this meeting".

If he is part of the project, then he should be part of the meeting. If he is not part of the meeting, then he may be missing some context he needs to be productive on the project. Even worse, he may get second-hand information from the meeting from someone else, and then he will be misinformed, which is worse than uninformed.

I would just invite him to the meeting. You may want to forewarn him that the other guy who you think he will have a conflict with will also be there just so he's not blindsided. As the organizer of the meeting, it is your responsibility to defuse or deescalate any conflict that might come up between these two as a result of them both being in the meeting. It is also your responsibility to ensure that all relevant project participants have the information they need to work productively.

If there is a serious conflict during the meeting, you should raise it with the manager(s) of the people involved in the conflict after the meeting. It's not an issue of not liking someone, but at work you have to be professional, and if these two people are causing conflicts, that's not being professional and their managers should know about it.

  • "I would just invite him to the meeting. " Really, I think the nature of the question is precisely what it says in the title. (I agree with the final sentence here! :) )
    – Fattie
    Jan 9, 2019 at 18:15
  • Although TBC "project participants only". Clowns who want to force their way in then just assert "well I'm a participant".
    – Fattie
    Jan 9, 2019 at 18:17
  • @Fattie Projects I've been a part of in a company setting have a well-defined set of participants for the project. It ought to be well-defined who is/is not a contributor to the project, and if it's not, then you (both you and OP!) should have a discussion with your manager; you can't just have everyone in the company willy-nilly contributing to your projects without any sort of control in place.
    – Ertai87
    Jan 9, 2019 at 18:21

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