This question recently asked for advice on how to turn down an invitation to a sporting event the asker had no interest in. Most of the answers provided, including the highest upvoted one, recommend going to the event anyway in order to build rapport with the boss because the boss enjoys such events (this question will not be addressing any problematic issues with such an invitation). This event isn't happening to me, but because it could, I will be phrasing this question as if it had to better illustrate the situation.

This may work for that person, but for me, a sporting event would be absolute hell. I'm autistic, and loud places like sporting events are incredibly uncomfortable for me, even with earplugs. And I do not want to have to tell my boss that I'm autistic (because I don't feel it's relevant to my job), but I absolutely do not want to attend such an event.

I also do not want to give my boss a false impression that I enjoy such events, and I do not want to lie to my boss to get out of the event, because he's very observant and I am very bad at lying - he would catch onto it immediately.

How can I politely refuse an invitation to this event, and how can I let my boss know that these events don't interest me, without upsetting my boss?

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    Some of the questions containing the word "decline" may be helpful. (Do we need a decline tag? ;-) Mar 24, 2015 at 14:19
  • @StephanKolassa is right. "Decline" is much more polite as a word, and it does the job just as effectively. Mar 24, 2015 at 14:25
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    How would you feel about being asked to attend a noisy industry convention?
    – user29165
    Mar 24, 2015 at 15:21
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    @CreationEdge Knowing it would be like that? Equally miserable.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 24, 2015 at 15:22
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    "Sorry, I can't make it."
    – Matt
    Mar 25, 2015 at 16:04

7 Answers 7


You've rather painted yourself into a hypothetical corner here. There is an important distinction between "I just don't happen to like X" and "X is a real problem for me because of my medical issues" - but you don't want to tell your boss about your medical issues because you think they're irrelevant to your work.

I think the solution is to reveal the part of your medical issue that is relevant, and nothing further. For example:

Thankyou for that generous offer, but I have some auditory processing issues that make it impossible for me to be in a large noisy crowd.

If your boss apologizes or appears embarrassed:

You couldn't have known; this quiet working environment is great for me but I can't go to a stadium at all.

If you boss pooh-poohs your demurral and tells you it will be fine:

I regret that I really must decline. I would love to be part of the team activity but a live sporting event is simply not possible for me because of my auditory issues. [Look regretful, like you wish you could go.]

If you feel that your auditory processing issues might (or might not) be relevant for some work-related events that might occur in the future, such as attending a conference, flying somewhere, or even attending a very large meeting, then you can mention these after you have successfully communicated I can't go to the sporting event:

I can handle a conference keynote if it's less than 90 minutes and I get a break right afterwards, but I know a [football game] will be a lot louder and longer than a conference keynote.


I'm actually unable to even attend a conference keynote, though breakout sessions are fine for me. When I attended [conference] I watched the live stream of the keynote from elsewhere in the convention centre [or used the overflow room which was quieter, or whatever] and that worked fine.


I know you haven't offered to send me to any conferences yet, but I'll just mention for completeness that my auditory issues also prevent me from attending sessions with more than 100 people or so in them. That rules out X and Y, but not A and B as conferences I'd love to attend some time.

Don't invent an issue for this purpose; I just chose "auditory processing issue" based on some cues in the question. Be clear and precise (but succinct) when stating your reason for being unable to attend the sporting event, and optionally connecting it to similar working events like conferences. Three sentences should be enough.

Stay firm and polite and there should be no consequence. Your boss may suggest you attend part of the activity, such as a get together before and after. If you can, you should, even if it will be difficult for you. You got out of the part that would be impossible, so make an effort and do the difficult. People will appreciate it.

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    I'm all for honesty, but while we're dealing with hypotheticals, I wonder how an answer like this would affect the boss's decisions for other future events. Who to send to an industry convention or who to send to large meetings, for instance. Do you see any potential downsides to voicing an "auditory processing issue"?
    – user29165
    Mar 24, 2015 at 15:16
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    If it's true that the OP can't go to a large crowded noisy thing, then it's not a problem if the boss chooses not to send the OP to a large crowded noisy thing in the future, right? It's possible that this will start a conversation about what work-related activities are tolerable and what are not, and that's all for the good. To hide the truth because maybe someone will make a decision in the future you don't like seems counterproductive to me. I wouldn't invent an imaginary auditory processing issue, to be clear, but revealing one seems appropriate in this case. Mar 24, 2015 at 15:17
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    In the case where it would begin to affect work, I do agree that explaining the full situation would be appropriate, assuming there are anti-discrimination laws in the jurisdiction to prevent an unfortunate backlash. As @CreationEdge pointed out, there are unfortunately still places that carry a lot of stigma towards employees with outstanding medical issues, especially in regards to mental health.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 24, 2015 at 16:02
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    Brilliant answer! What would you suggest if the boss directly asks "So, what is this medical condition"? My thought would be something honest that suggests there's more to it than whatever probably misleading stereotypes the boss associates with the label, for example "It's technically a form of autism. It doesn't affect my work or day to day life, except in large, noisy crowds. I'd appreciate it if you keep this personal, as there are so many misconceptions and stereotypes about autism" Mar 24, 2015 at 17:51
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    I would say "it is an auditory processing issue. I can't [whatever] in loud and noisy environments." You have given it a name and need not go into further details nor connect it to a larger syndrome. Mar 24, 2015 at 18:05

I can't believe no one's suggested it yet, but personally, I would just be honest and direct.

"I appreciate the invitation, but I really don't like large, noisy crowds, so I would not enjoy attending a live sporting event. Thanks for the offer, though."

There's no reason why you have to explain that you dislike noisy crowds because of your autism, and I don't see any reasonable person prying further. Simply state that you dislike noise and crowds, so you would not enjoy the activity, and thank the person for the offer. No reason to over-think or over-complicate it.

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    +1 I do not like most of the off-hours meetings (either I do not like the activity or I have other things to do) and I clearly state it so. There is also a huge cultural component: in some places going out is almost part of the job (Japan for instance) and in others this is not common at all (France for instance)
    – WoJ
    Mar 25, 2015 at 13:48
  • +1 For being simple and assuming the OP's boss is a reasonable, level-headed person. There's no reason a tactful but firm refusal shouldn't be enough in most situations.
    – Adam H.
    Mar 25, 2015 at 16:50

Simply express appreciation for the invitation, and explain that you do not do well in loud crowds.

There are plenty of ways to build rapport with your coworkers. Outside socializing is only one of those ways. If you end up being the only one who does not go to the event, you may have to work a little harder in some other way to build up the camaraderie. Hallway chats. Lunches together in the break room, etc.


If you don't want to lie and don't really want to explain either, then simply don't.

"I can't attend for personal reasons."

If pressed for more details, just repeat "Sorry, it's a personal matter", but it would be rather rude if you actually got pressured to tell details. And if you have a tendency to blurt out things you don't want to say, watch out and bite your tongue.

Even white lies often get people into trouble and awkward situations, even if they are good at lying. Better to either tell non-misleading part of the truth, or just not tell details.


Being honest is an admired trait and all too often missing in the workplace environment these days. So, I'm gonna keep this just plain and simple. First, be yourself. He hired you which says he already likes you and what you have to offer the organization. The fact that you are in the autistic spectrum and you are performing well on the job is more to be admired. I think you should tell him that you realize that it may be different, but I don't enjoy sporting events. Explain why, about the irritation of the noise etc and that you'd rather watch the game or event at home on tv with the sound turned down - LOL. You see Mr. __, I hope you can understand, but I'm on the autistic spectrum and loud noisy environments can be really challenging for me. Again - I'm very appreciative of your offer, but it's just not something that I can take you up on and I hope you don't look down at me for being honest and sharing my issue with not being able to take you up on your kind invite. I think you will definitely be the winner by being your honest self. Kudos to you and good luck.


Your autism could be considered a disability, which would have to be accommodated by employers in many jurisdictions. In my jurisdiction, an employer has to accommodate disabilities to the point of hardship.

My understanding is that autistic folks are unusually sensitive to external stimuli and become overwhelmed by them. Your employer's duty to accommodate would be to arrange your work or working environment to eliminate or reduce unnecessary stimuli.

Check with HR and labour regulations in your jurisdiction. Your employer may be legally obliged to accommodate you.

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    This wouldn't apply for an off-work-hours event, which is what I'm asking about.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 24, 2015 at 14:49
  • But because your boss will be there, it might be considered "on the island" aka work-related.
    – mkennedy
    Mar 24, 2015 at 16:32
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    @Zibbobz, any event(after hours or not) that is, in fact, or implicitly a condition of employment(aka required, condition for promotion, etc.) is considered work-related in the US, Canada, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Philippines and Mexico. And those are just the ones we deal with in my company. Mar 25, 2015 at 14:22
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    @Zibbobz, then there really is nothing to discuss. Just say you have personal business on that day and leave it at that. HR at your company should be aware of your condition and you can use them to solve a lot of these issues without your direct involvement. I have had to deal with subordinate health issues and letting HR be the filter is best all the way around. Mar 25, 2015 at 14:37
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    @jbarker2160 Except I haven't told HR because it's not their business and I don't want it to affect how I'm viewed around the office, and I am not good at lying so I can't just make up an excuse of doing something on that day. If your suggestion is that I should tell HR though, that's a reasonable suggestion, and I won't be unreasonable about that suggestion.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 25, 2015 at 14:41

I would decline saying that unfortunately you had a previously arranged social engagement.

I avoided going to a FTSE 100 employers Christmas do by doing this and also "forgetting" to register in time

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    "I do not want to lie to my boss to get out of the event".
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 24, 2015 at 14:36
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    If your "other engagement" is to not go, it's not lying. You just don't have to tell him that.
    – Jay Godse
    Mar 24, 2015 at 14:43
  • @Zibbobz this is a social white lie like every one always says baby's are cute when the proud parents show of the pics :-)
    – Pepone
    Mar 24, 2015 at 14:45
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    Except I do not want to lie to my boss to get out of the event. I am bad at lying. Very bad. This is not an option for me.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 24, 2015 at 14:47
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    @DJClayworth It's my personal disorder, and I do not want to talk about it with my boss. It doesn't interfere with my work, and I don't want it to change how I'm seen around the office just to get out of an event that Is outside of work hours.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 24, 2015 at 15:04

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