I currently work for a small (15-25 employees) startup that likes to have company outings. Things like going bowling, going to a bar, etc. Work is never discussed. There is a lot of social pressure to go to these. Whenever I avoid them my coworkers express disappointment and try to pressure me to join them.

It's not that I don't like hanging out with people, or that I don't like my coworkers, it's just that I have a lot of other friends who I hang out with very often and, quite frankly, as much as I like my coworkers, I'd rather hang out with my friends.

How do I avoid these company outings without feeling like I'm an outcast?

  • 3
    How frequent are the outings? Couldn't you spend a little time at these outings getting to know your co-workers in a non-work environment? Just a couple of thoughts.
    – JB King
    Jul 12, 2013 at 17:33
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    At my current job, I always decline such invitations. But I go the extra mile to be friendly and personable DURING work hours and hopefully they do not take it personally if I do not join them.
    – jmorc
    Jul 12, 2013 at 17:38
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    @notmyrealname I'm friendly with all my coworkers during work hours. We often play Mario Kart or Ping Pong in the break room.
    – qtpie
    Jul 12, 2013 at 17:42
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    How would you feel about inviting the co-workers (all or some) to hang out with your other group of friends? Jul 12, 2013 at 18:19
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    6-10 per month sounds too much to me!! do all of your coworkers go on all of them? Maybe your technique of declining could use some work? If you accept 1 per month maybe its good enough and gracefully decline the others I don't know. 1 per month is probably long enough that ppl recognise you and say "oh yeah he/she comes to bowling sometimes but can't everytime because she has so much going on at home or whatever gossip ppl say"
    – Brandin
    Aug 22, 2014 at 6:43

8 Answers 8


How do I avoid these company outings without feeling like I'm an outcast?

... you can't.

People form friendships at things like that. It's the same as if you join any organization, then refuse to eat lunch, take smoke breaks, or spend time with coworkers outside of work. It is natural when a group participates in these and one person does not, the other person will feel like an outsider.

This can influence your work interactions the same way posting negative things on Facebook can. Is either situation fair? Probably not. But part of how social humans work.

Now, there are two situations here.

1. Friendly teasing

If this is the case, I'd just get used to it and realize you are going to have to, if you want to keep not attending those events. If it's friendly banter, not a big deal.

2. Serious frustration

It may be your coworkers legitimately feel as though you don't want to be part of their group. This might make them feel as though you think something like, "I'm too good for your group." Which, somewhat is true, given what you said about preferring to spend time with your friends instead.

In this case you probably can't just ignore it. You can find time to spend with them though in similar contexts. Perhaps lunch, or a morning "how was your weekend?" conversation. Maybe try to find some time once a month go to one of the events. You might not be connecting as much as they are but they at least see you putting effort into the friendship/team camaraderie. This can greatly help to avoid them feeling like you don't care or are too good for them.

By the way, I have similar issues given where I live (25 miles in wrong direction of 99% of my coworkers). I make efforts to eat lunch with people or connect when I can because I do not have the ability to spend time with them outside work, without serious effort on my part.

  • Lunches are very effective if you want to spend time on other things. There are plenty of reasons you can't make stuff after work that's understandable, but skipping lunch all the time is harder to explain. "I'm too busy" only works from time to time... Aug 22, 2014 at 18:07

There's no real way around this. The culture of your company seems to be that everyone goes and spends time with each other. If you are the only one not doing it, there is really nothing you can do to stop "feeling like an outcast." You are making yourself an outcast in this situation.

I've seen this happen before, and our group tries to get someone to come with us on an after-hours company outing, but they always decline. After a while, we just give up and stop trying to get them to come, and the expectation is that they won't show up.

With all that said, this shouldn't affect your working relationship with your coworkers, as outside, non-work activities do not reflect on your competence on the job.

You go to work to make money, you don't go to work to make friends. Not that it isn't nice to make friends with people at your shop, but it's not your job to spend free time with them.


Even if you go to these outings and don't mingle with them folks, you risk being branded outcast. This is just one of those necessary evils. May be you can try and attend half of them in a month. You could also try and take them to a lunch once a month to make up for it.


Interesting solution my friends use for this: Whenever the place they work needs a new employee, they refer friends.
If the friend is qualified, in company outings they have one/some of their friends with them so they don't miss out on "good friend time".

Naturally this is not the main reason for this, but it is one of the perks of getting a friend to work with you.


I generally dont like hanging out with people except my sister and maybe one or two friends. But I also hate feeling like an outcast so I decline two invites then accept one as a rule.


If you are forced to do it....and you want to say no for legitimate reasons the do it. However make up by bringing food or lunch or something to show that you appreciate the team.


I never, ever go to companies outings and have never had a problem. No one cares. They just want you to get stuff done. I am in the software/IT world. Could be different where you are. I just don't want to. Its as simple as that.

I can't speak for other disciplines. This has been along large companies having christmas parties, to company picnics, to outings to theme parks, movies, bowling, etc... I see these people all day. I have stuff I like to do outside the office. No one has ever been offended by it.


Have a compelling excuse:

  • a child/spouse/parent to hurry home to care for (picking up the kid from daycare is a classic that everyone understands)
  • a chronic sickness that forces you to go home when not absolutely required to work
  • a train/bus/ferry to catch ("sorry I'd love to stay but the train won't wait for me")

This is called a "white lie". Your colleagues may feel sorry for you (if using the sickness ploy), but not disappointed IN you (though possibly disappointed about the situation causing you to not be available to them).

  • 1
    Lies never work. 1) From now on you will have to remember that you used a lie and watch that you never give that away in the future. 2) Human beings are highly socialized animals and very good at picking up the smallest signals - the chance is very real that several colleagues will see through your lie immediately, and from that moment one will know you as someone lying.
    – user8036
    Mar 25, 2016 at 8:39

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