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We are always required to attend meetings outside office hours without any compensation.

Usually, our employers are unwilling to convene meetings during office hours because it would reduce our working hours for coding, hence they would gather us at night or on weekends. It is very hard for us to unplug.

Those who obey are more likely to be promoted and get a pay raise, and those who refuse should take the risks of being sidelined.

How can I refuse such meetings politely?

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    Are these meetings actually about the work you’re doing? (discussion about a project, planning, ...?) Or are they of the “optional” kind? (tech talk, social meetup, teambuilding, ...?) – AsheraH Feb 27 at 9:29
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    @AsheraH They are not optional and are related to my work. – Weiterbildung Feb 27 at 9:30
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    Politely refuse and offer to reschedule during normal hours. The first time, to smooth the transition, it may be easier the to make up a non-specific excuse (e.g. spending personal time with family / significant other / old friends in town etc.), and do NOT be available to reschedule except normal hours. If pressed, respond in a way that politely asserts your privacy. Once this is accepted, the next time and in the future just say you're not available directly. Your coworkers will figure it out. – Pete W Feb 27 at 14:36
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    @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen In the contract, it was written that the working hours should not exceed 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. – Weiterbildung Feb 28 at 15:11
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    @Weiterbildung As other have mentioned the culture is important in situations like this, because for instance Europe and the US are very different, and probably China too. You may want to edit your question so it reflects that this is a chinese company (located where?) and what options are available to you. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Feb 28 at 16:10
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You haven't added a country tag, but from your name I assume you are in a German speaking country. I am also assuming you have a standard full-time job contract.

How can I refuse such meetings politely?

Do it brief and without any further explanation: "Sorry I won't be able to make it to the meeting, I already have other plans." Make sure to read your actual contract and employee handbook to see what kind of office hours you and your employer have agreed to.

Those who obey are more likely to be promoted and get a pay raise, and those who refuse should take the risks of being sidelined.

This seems to be your main concern, but let me tell you: You are not entitled to a raise or work on interesting projects. You cannot stop other from doing extra work or your employer to favour those who do.

But you shouldn't rely on a single company for your career progression in the first place. Do your job and if you advance in the company and get interesting tasks this is good for you, but if you find yourself in a position where this is not true anymore, there is more companies out there and some of them respect your personal time.

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    Regarding the last part: Exactly. with a company culture like that I'd be looking for another job as soon as reasonably possible. Especially as a software Engineer in Germany it should be fairly easy – Hobbamok Mar 1 at 9:46
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    The OP has now confirmed that it's a Chinese company and seems to be in China though it's still not clear. – T.J. Crowder Mar 1 at 11:39
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More specific information regarding the legal situation would help a lot. More specifically, is there somewhere you can go to help? A union in most countries, or an institution like Arbeiterkammer in Austria or other worker protection agencies?

The company is stealing your private time, plain and simple. You are paid amount X for time Y. They ask more of Y without giving more of X. They do that by dangling the carrot of promotion in front of everyone, knowing that anyway they will promote only one (or a small number).

That's not an environment I would work in. The tech job market being what it is right now, walk away. Almost every company I know is desperately looking for IT people and you should have not trouble whatsoever finding a new job.

For your actual question: There is no need to refuse politely. This is a work setting, not a weekend with friends. Simply refuse. As soon as your contractual work time is over, you have zero obligations towards the company. Your private time is yours to do with as you please. So: Simply refuse. In fact, refuse from this and all future meetings outside work hours, and make it clear that the fact that the meetings are outside work hours are your reason.

"I see that the meeting is scheduled for 18:30. My work time ends at 17:30 so I will be unable to attend."

Chances are, many of your co-workers are thinking the same thing and simply don't want to be the first (or only) to refuse. You could talk to them, depending on how close you are, and if several of you send an identical refusal, management will get the message and will have no choice but to reschedule.

If you have flexible working hours, you can also simply adapt. I have regular meetings at 8:30 while I typically start around 9. Now during home office times that's no issue for me - but I take that time back by finishing earlier those days or having a long breakfast break after the meeting.


One last thing: You mentioned "at night or on weekends". That could be flat-out illegal or only be allowed with mandatory overpay - all depending on your jurisdiction. Especially the Sunday is strongly protected in many countries. In light of those two key words I strongly suggest you contact whoever represents employees in your country.

And don't forget that you work in IT. You are stronger than they are. You will find a new job more quickly than they will find a new worker.

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  • If indeed you are in Germany, the law does not permit you to work for more than 10 hours a day (though there are exceptions). Your employer is breaking the law if you are required to work for longer. If you are being required to work without being clocked in this is illegal too. You are missing out on pay and insurance. – RedSonja Mar 1 at 7:53
  • Actually, if you are in any EU country, check the EU working time directive: ec.europa.eu/social/… regarding "minimum daily rest period", "minimum weekly rest period". – Alexander Mar 1 at 9:54
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This company doesn't respect their employees. It's likely you can't get them to change, and as you say if you don't do it their way you risk consequences. I suggest finding a place to work that take care of their employees.

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Don't refuse. This seldom goes well. Do a different thing ;)

I'd recommend to take a step forward and informally complain: This scheduling must be considered unfair, because you want (and deserve) to attend those meetings, but simply cannot make it after hours (- but don't give a reason for that, under any circumstances).

You will either be excused, or the scheduling will actually be changed.

Edit/add: in case of "Any boss who's deliberately scheduling meetings at night to save daytime hours for coding is not likely to listen to these arguments" -> If arguments are of no value: more reason not to argue, but to let facts speak for themselves. If asked, don't ever appear reluctant, acknowledge you've seen the "invitation", and that you will of course "do your best" to comply, but fail to show up (unless you sincerely want to, which I doubt you will ever do). It's not your fault there are always visits to the doctor, shopping tours, a spouse hogging the internet, cooking, meetings with friends, or simply need for sleep clogging your "free" time. And remember: it's always those real obstacles which preclude your boss' wishes from coming true, it's not you.

Always make it a technical problem, not a personal one... most managers will know at heart they very well may exercise power over people by exerting pressure and/or employing bribery, but in fact have no power in the realm of the real world ;)

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    The last sentence seems wildly optimistic. You omit the possibility where OP is told to make it work, and if they can't/won't, they are punished (either formally if that's legal, or informally via less desirable assignments and lower raises). Any boss who's deliberately scheduling meetings at night to save daytime hours for coding is not likely to listen to these arguments, because they don't care about their employees. – Chris Hayes Feb 28 at 21:22
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I feel from the way you phrased the pressure on you that the company is not able to formally discipline you. Standing up to this bullying is the right thing to do.

You need to be clear what is/isn't acceptable and communicate that clearly to both management and colleagues. As mentioned above, there are probably others who are pissed-off too. Be a leader. When you have a firm line you need to stick to it. Don't let the bullies play on your fears or good nature. No means no!
Be clear with your language such as "I won't be doing out-of hours meetings" not "I'm unhappy with..." or "I don't like..." Don't accept any vague promises. If, say, they offer overtime, then they need to put what they propose in writing. You have the choice. You make the decision. You don't have to justify anything. You don't to have to ask to be excused.

So, it's not about politeness. There's no need to be particularly rude, but if they think being specific and direct is rude then that's their problem.

If your company has to deal with multiple time-zones then some unusual hours might be called for, but only on a well scheduled, properly compensated, basis.

The company clearly has a bullying culture, so I recommend finding a job elsewhere.

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As many have said, you should consider look for another job. If that is not an option for you, I agree that you should be firm and just say "I cannot attend outside office hours" and do not give any explanation. If you give them an explanation, then the topic is shifted to whether your reasons are good enough, while that should never be discussed: even if you want your free time to stare at a blank wall, you are entitled to it and your company should have no say in that.

I would like to point out another huge red flag about your company: even if you have a "coding" job, meetings for follow-up, planning, etc, are part of the job, and it makes no sense to treat them as if it is a separate thing. If management is concerned about time spent in meetings, it is their responsibility to keep them as few and as short as possible. The fact that the see meetings as "not a part" of the job is a sign of poor management skills.

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Most company, at least when addressing remote or flexible working arrangements for employees, would define the 'core hours' during which employees are expected to be available for meetings. Outside of those hours, it is generally accepted that not everyone is going to be able to attend the meetings. I find that there are usually no problems when companies or organisations set out and follow these expectations.

There are two specific issues here, and I feel like they need to be addressed differently:

Usually, our employers are unwilling to convene meetings during office hours because it would reduce our working hours for coding, hence they would gather us at night or on weekends. It is very hard for us to unplug.

This appears to be a contractual issue (depending on if you are a permanent employee or contractor) that needs to be dealt with by HR or at least on the part of management if they are the ones that are making employees attend meetings outside of the regular work hours. It is also a sign that there is either inefficiency in the work process or a lack of resources (or both), and again that needs to be addressed at the management level.

Those who obey are more likely to be promoted and get a pay raise, and those who refuse should take the risks of being sidelined.

This seems to be more related to work culture, which can stem from either management or HR depending on which area of business has a more direct impact on creating a safe and inclusive workplace, and for ensuring that workplace issues like bullying or inappropriately coercive behaviour can be identified and stamped out.

Alternatively, if there are no official or direct channels (which should be anonymous) for you to address these issues, and you don't feel like there are sensible ways to manage this, then you have to consider whether this is the right type of work environment for you. The people who are happy to give up their free time to attend the meetings are obviously trying to retain their jobs and climb the corporate ladder, but the trade-off or sacrifice they are making may not be the same ones you are prepared to make.

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