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Someone from upper management that I don't work with emailed me to schedule meeting. Is it rude to ask if the meeting is mandatory or should I just go ahead and give my available time. I'm not busy or anything I just don't like to sit in meeting.

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    Take a moment and answer the following internal question, who would attempt to schedule a meeting with someone, if they didn’t feel it was necessary?
    – Donald
    Jul 17 at 0:11
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    @Donald depends on how is invited, and how many people. if there were 4 people in there, likely all are mandatory. If there are 20, 30 or even more, there is a good chance some people are optional. Then again, I had mandatory online meetings with a few hundred people...
    – Benjamin
    Jul 17 at 0:28
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    Maybe this question may help: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/3485/…
    – zmike
    Jul 17 at 0:48
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    There’s always the possibility that someone wanted to invite balakoko and invited bakalolo instead.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 17 at 14:23
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    Asking if they got the correct person if you never heard of such requests to coworkers would be perfectly fine - "I work on project X and while I'd happy to discuss that I would like to confirm you did not intend to send this request to someone else". Jul 18 at 0:51
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If someone specifically emails you to arrange a meeting it is definitely mandatory.

Since people don't read, let me repeat that. If someone emails you to ask when you are free, the meeting is mandatory. That's not the same as just getting an invitation, which may or may not be mandatory.

Optional meetings are done by just setting up a time and sending you an invitation. Also any meeting with only a few people, or individually selected people (as opposed to all people on some list) are almost always mandatory.

By "mandatory" I mean you are expected to show up unless you negotiate your absence. That's not to say you can't get out of it. It's entirely reasonable to ask what the meeting is about, and if you really have nothing to contribute say so. Remember that "this meeting is not interesting to me" or even "this meeting doesn't help me with my work" is not necessarily a reason not to attend. You may be required to give input that helps someone else with their work.

In general asking a senior manager directly if a meeting is mandatory can be rude, or at least potentially career limiting. It implies that the manager creates meetings for no reason, or that their meetings don't help the goal of the company.

Instead ask what the purpose of the meeting is, and what your contribution is expected to be - implying that you need to prepare in order to make the meeting most effective. If the meeting is truly optional you will usually be told at this stage. Or, if they don't give you a clear role in the meeting, you may be able to reply by saying that you don't think you have much to contribute, and ask whether your presence is really necessary. Note that sometimes attending a meeting is good for your career, even if you don't contribute all that much. And that sometimes simply knowing what senior management is thinking is good for your career, and for the effectiveness of your work.

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  • That might depend on local work culture, but I don't know if I agree with "Optional meetings are done by just setting up a time and hoping you will show up", even more so considering the meeting request comes from upper management. If it were coming from a coworker, maybe, but I don't feel like you can reasonably not show up to a meeting upper management scheduled for you, though it seems OK to ask about the purpose of the meeting, or to ask to reschedule if you happen to be unavailable (for a good enough reason). Jul 22 at 8:33
  • I've been emailed invites to meetings by accident, that I have no business being in. I've been emailed invites to business announcements and leadership AMAs that are very much "show up if you're interested". I've been emailed invites to tech meetings where they'd like to have me there to address any finnicky details, but my presence is definitely not required, nor assumed. If they're explicitly organising the meeting with you, it's a safe assumption it's mandatory. But this answer currently implies basically any invite should be considered be mandatory.
    – Xono
    Jul 23 at 5:51
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    @Xono No, this answer says If someone specifically emails you to arrange a meeting it is definitely mandatory. Not "if someone invites you to a meeting it's definitely mandatory". Jul 23 at 13:09
  • This assumes, probably correctly, that the OP received a custom-written email asking to arrange a meeting. In some systems, including MS Outlook, meeting invitations appear in your inbox as email messages (with extra controls at the top to accept/decline/etc). The wording of the question suggests that it was a custom-written email sent specifically to the OP, but it's not 100% clear. Aug 5 at 20:12
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This should be referred to your manager. They will advise you what to do. Probably they will just say to go ahead and schedule, but they need to be in the loop.

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In any company which is not a joke upper management is always so busy that to get a meeting with them there must be something serious going on.

Someone from upper management that I don't work with emailed me to schedule meeting.

In this case it's not even you to ask them a meeting, it's them asking to you. You can be assured they don't want to waste an hour of their time. They want to discuss something worth one hour of their time.

If that doesn't fit in the definition of mandatory meeting, I don't know what can.

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Asking if it's mandatory is about the worst possible action.

It's basically saying, "Hey, I don't think your meeting is worthwhile, and am only going to attend if it's a required action." Which, yeah, is rude.

Instead, I'd suggest one of the following:

A) Simply don't go.

B) Simply go.

C) Ask, "Will I need to prepare anything for it? And what's the meeting agenda?" ... and then from there decide whether to go or not.

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    Not going is better than asking if it's mandatory though?
    – bakalolo
    Jul 17 at 0:31
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    I'm sure you meant it to be obvious, but Option A would probably be a Career-Limiting Move.
    – jcm
    Jul 17 at 0:49
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    Nah, Option A isn't automatically a career limiting move. All depends on what the meeting is and why you're invited. If it's a 4 person meeting where you're the subject matter expert? Yeah, you need to be there. But I was recently invited to a 15 person, 1-hour-long exploratory meeting to talk about the goal of "company meetings make good use of my time". For some reason, my boss seemed to like that I decided to decline that request....
    – Kevin
    Jul 17 at 4:05
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    Option C is the best. I mean, do give the meeting and the upper management a chance to explain himself or herself. Maybe he or she has something important to tell you during the meeting. Jul 17 at 6:53
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    Option C should be the default for any meeting, really. That's going to save you a lot of time sitting in meetings in the future.
    – Erik
    Jul 17 at 7:51
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If you think it might not be intended for you, you better check. I used to get meeting invites for the guy who was just in front of me in alphabetic order in the huge company address book. By checking I avoided my time being wasted, and the poor guy being blamed for missing a meeting when his invitation was sent to me by mistake.

And there's the question what you will be missing elsewhere if you attend the meeting, which the inviter cannot know. If you tell the inviter "I can come to the meeting, but we'll likely lose a big deal if I don't visit customer X at exactly that time.", that's perfectly fine. Your decision who you ask. For example, it might be wiser to call your manager "Sorry, but I got a meeting invite just at the time when we were supposed to meet about X. Can we move our meeting, can you do that meeting without me, or should I try to get out of the other meeting".

It's mostly just common sense.

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What kind of meeting is this?

Is it a 1:1 meeting from a higher level manager? Mandatory.

Is it related to a project you work on, or that may be related to one you work on? Mandatory for at least the first, if its a repeating meeting you may find it doesn't provide value to anyone for you to be there.

Is it a town hall or other informational meeting? Optional.

Is it a giant meeting with dozens of people? Optional, they were just spreading a wide net.

Is it a rah rah meeting for morale purposes? Optional, and in fact better for you to just work if that type of meeting is demotivating to you.

In any case I wouldn't ask if it was mandatory. If you really feel its useless to you AND to them for you to be there (or minimal value, like the informational or rah rah meetings) then just don't show up unless pinged and apologize if that happens. Or reject the meeting invite.

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