Let's say you're in a meeting with your colleagues, manager/boss and some 3rd party people (or people from another team/department) - important here because it's not only your personal image/reputation at stake here. And just to spice this up even further, let's say it's a video call, making "silently sneaking out" slightly more difficult, as this meeting is already in progress.

And suddenly:

  • You feel a strong urge to use the restroom NOW
  • Your mom/dad calls you, and you know they don't call you at work for nothing
  • Teacher of your kid calls you
  • Or whatever situation that makes you think you have a good reason to leave the meeting immediately

Now you have decided that you must leave this meeting to deal with this emergency. Heck, you might even be the person currently speaking, but you want to get out, NOW.

But how to do so gracefully, to minimise the disruption and not let other people think you are disrespectful?


5 Answers 5


If it's a small meeting, where your absence is important, if you can, wait until a person stops speaking. Then say:

I'm very sorry to interrupt. This is X. If you don't mind, I need to step away for 2 minutes.

The polite thing for them to do is to either wait until you get back, or proceed, and recap any important points.

If you are generally a professional in your conduct, they will understand you would not have done this unless you had a good reason.

If it's a larger meeting, or maybe where you absence is not that important, you could fire off a private message to a colleague in the meeting just saying that you've ducked out for a few moments. If someone calls on you during the meeting, your colleague can indicate that you'll be back in a moment.

  • Only do this in small meetings or other meetings where your constant involvement is expected.
    – Michael
    Aug 3, 2019 at 6:22
  • @Michael Good point. I've amended my answer. Aug 3, 2019 at 6:47

Things happen. Things come up. Excuse yourself politely and go take care of whatever it is that you need to take care of.

"Excuse me, I need to step away for a few moments. Pardon my interruption."

Nobody will look at you strange, nobody will think you're being disrespectful, nobody will give this even a moment of thought.

  • Nobody will look at you strange, nobody will think you're being disrespectful, nobody will give this even a moment of thought. This likely depends on cuture and your position in the meeting. Aug 5, 2019 at 5:46

I have found that the least amount of disruption generally equates to the least amount of attention drawn to your exit. So just get up and leave. Most people will figure out the obvious; that you had to attend to something that was more urgent than the meeting.

If I was speaking, or listening to what was being said, I would find it annoying that someone has interrupted my concentration to draw attention to the fact that they are leaving. Unless it is a meeting that you are expected to speak at, why should I care whether you are present or not?

If you are expected to present, you might wait to catch the eye of whoever is moderating and quietly indicate that you would be gone for a time.

If it is a small, interactive meeting and you are actively engaged in conversation, simply stand and say "excuse me" and exit. They will understand that you were unavoidably called away.

  • @Abigail: If you leave your stuff (laptop, notebook, sweater etc.) behind it’s a pretty strong indication that you’ll be back shortly.
    – Michael
    Aug 3, 2019 at 14:19
  • @Abigail, if you aren't vital to the meeting, is there any reason people would need to know, or would care, if you are coming back? And if you are vital, most people would assume you were coming back (otherwise you would have said something) Aug 6, 2019 at 15:40

Depends on Work Culture

Some environments are extremely formal and some are informal. I've been in meetings where people have their devices away and listening intently. I've been in other meetings where people have devices out and are partially listening. I've seen people excuse themselves, I've seen people just quietly get up and and then come back without interruption.

You'll have to feel it out and maybe observe it a bit. Because in general, that's the determinant in how meetings are organized. All about work culture.


On a video call there is often an embedded text chat channel; depending on your corporate culture it may be least disruptive to drop something into the chat like

I'm terribly sorry but I need to drop off the call for a moment to handle something urgent.

and then follow up with a simple

I'm back, sorry about that.

(Based on US tech workplace culture.)

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