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I work with someone that I've heard is thinking about asking to carpool with me and one other colleague (who I live with). The issue is, essentially, that we don't like the guy for various reasons which aren't really relevant. Both of us are polite to him at work, reasonably happy to talk to him if we see him at lunch, however being locked in a box with him for an hour each day wouldn't get each day off to the best start.

I don't think it would be particularly out of our way, and if we actually got on well, its something that I'd be happy to do, as I believe he lives nearby.

How do I go about resolving this in a professional and kind manner, if he does ask?

marked as duplicate by Jan Doggen, gnat, Chris E, jcmeloni, Adam V Dec 11 '14 at 14:48

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  • Have you considered buying a two-seater car? "I'm sorry, it's full!" :D – Jon Story Dec 11 '14 at 9:22
  • @JonStory I tried convincing my friend of that, but he didn't go for it, I can't imagine why... – Yann Dec 11 '14 at 9:24
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    Sounds like he's not buying into your vision, either, maybe buy a scooter? – Jon Story Dec 11 '14 at 9:26
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    "I'm sorry, I can't handle much company in the morning - one person is my limit." – Jenny D Dec 11 '14 at 11:29
  • @JennyD I'd almost accept that as the answer. It's enough of an answer to any 'why' questions they might have, and it's funny enough not to be taken too seriously, while being true(ish). – Yann Dec 11 '14 at 11:31
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First, you don't actually have to have any kind of explanation. "No." is a complete sentence. To be polite, you can expand a little - "Sorry, that won't work for me/us." By not giving a reason, you're not giving him anything to argue against. He can ask you to explain why it doesn't work, and you can repeat "sorry, we can't do that". He may be upset but there's literally not a single word he can take offense with.

However, if you do want to give a reason, make it a personal one about your preferences. Again, this limits his ability to argue with you. "I'm sorry, I find it hard to have too many people around me early in the morning - one is my limit." This does give him a small opening; he may say that he'll be very quiet and won't be intrusive or talk - in which case, you fall back on "sorry, it just doesn't work for me".

Should you come up with any practical reason - too far out of your way, not wanting to go at the same time, whatever - he'll have something to argue against, and if he can come up with a way to remove that reason (e.g. "but I'll walk to your house/suitable place so it won't be out of your way"), then he'll expect you to accede to his request. Giving him reasons is giving him something to bargain with, and will make him resentful when you don't fulfill what he considers to be your part of the bargain.

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    Maybe adding that you just don't want to have to coordinate with people outside of your home can help. You can't argue against that, unless you live together there's bound to be some stressing coordination cost (even the one with people inside the home can be stressing... but at least you can yell and know what the slow guy is doing). – Formagella Dec 11 '14 at 12:44
  • While I agree with you in general, I think just saying "No" is terribly impolite. Of course there is nothing to argue against, but language is not just about saying things, but also not saying things. If I would ask a reasonably long question and someone would just answer "No", I would consider it as impolite. And I am German and I guess Germans are quite direct, I guess it is much more impolite in other cultures. – dirkk Dec 11 '14 at 14:38
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    @dirkk i disagree that it's terribly impolite. what's impolite is the person pestering you for a reason. you have every right to reject such a proposal, and it's not impolite to not say why. your life is your own business, not anyone else's. there are surely cultural differences in play here, though (american here). – ell May 13 '15 at 22:43
  • @sgroves: German here :-). I'd also consider it impolite to question a refusal. Unless there is some kind of existing obligation or entitlement, a plain "no" is not impolite. I cannot think of any moral or ethical reason why you should have to explain it. – sleske Apr 15 '16 at 7:09
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What about "No, I'd rather drive on my own"? That's polite enough. There is no need to give him any reasons why you don't want to carpool with him, giving him the true reason might offend him (you said you don't want to carpool because you don't like him), and you should not make up any fake reasons, because lying has the tendency to come back and bite you.

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    This answer focuses on the fact he travels alone, but op travels with another co-worker. – Kevin Dec 11 '14 at 8:58
  • That's not true at all. It focuses on the fact that he doesn't owe that person any explanation, and that's that. And that he shouldn't make up stories to give an explanation. The answer is directly applicable to many situations with the obvious changes. – gnasher729 Dec 11 '14 at 10:48
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    If op says he'd rather drive on his own, why would op carpool with another co-worker. That is in my opinion, making up a story or lying. OP wouldn't mind carpooling he just doesn't like to be in a car with that specific co-worker. I do get the essence of your answer and I agree with it, but the response you suggest could very well upset the co-worker or cause a discussion. – Kevin Dec 11 '14 at 10:54
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    read the body text, this is not really an answer to his question. – Formagella Dec 11 '14 at 12:40
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Whatever you do is going to lead to some awkwardness, the trick would be to make it into "Yann is a bit odd or fussy" rather than "Yann doesn't like me"

As such, I'd just make out like it's going to be too much hassle - if your colleague doesn't know exactly where you live you could fudge it slightly so that you seem further away, and possibly even that it would involve doubling back on yourself slightly.

Alternately suggest that the two of you who currently car pool regularly do something else together which means it's not a simple commute-work-commute arrangement: if you played Squash after work 3 nights a week, for example, on an irregular schedule, it would be pointless to car pool with someone else as they'd be sitting waiting for you for 6 hours a week.

I don't advocate lying in the workplace on work related issues, but to save someone's feelings and avoid excessive awkwardness, I think a bit of a white lie may not go amiss here.

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You might try to tell him that you have a specific routine you like to go through in your car to give your day a good start. Maybe a certain piece of music, or listening to audio books. I use this example, because that's what I'd say, and it would be true.

Maybe explain that you simply like to start your day with a bit of privacy?

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    I feel like the privacy point would ring hollow, as there's two of us, but good points to bear in mind. – Yann Dec 11 '14 at 8:36
  • You live with that other guy so it's not really the same thing as traveling with a random colleague. – Formagella Dec 11 '14 at 12:42
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The guy hasn't asked you yet - use that!

People will rarely ask unless they feel there is at least small possibility for hearing yes. Don't do anything that could encourage him.

Try making travelling with you seem unappealing. Like saying that you leave an hour early because you're a super slow driver. Or how you were so distracted that you didn't see that red traffic light... again. Find out what music he doesn't like and just mention how you play it loud every morning.

The point is to prevent him from asking and you from being impolite. Just be careful so that whatever you say doesn't make you look bad in an unprofessional way.

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    This answer made me laugh. – jono Jan 8 '15 at 2:31
  • @JonathonMilne me too, because this is my typical strategy for a lot of things in life. ;) – ell May 13 '15 at 22:50

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