Do you suffer from meeting fatigue? Do you spend so much time sitting in meetings that you’re unable to get your work done? If so, you might need to start turning down a few of those meeting invitations.

For some people, that’s easier said than done. It can be hard to determine which meeting invitations to decline. And it can be even harder to actually turn down an invitation. After all, you don’t want to offend anyone or anger the meeting organizer! But it actually is possible to turn down meeting invitations in a nice way that doesn’t make anyone mad. You just have to use the right approach.

Here are three reasons why you should decline a meeting invitation, and how to do it nicely:

Reason to Decline #1: The meeting doesn’t seem to have much value.

Some meetings just don’t seem to be very worthwhile. This may be because they don’t have a clear agenda, the right people aren’t on the invitation list, or the meeting participants don’t have the necessary background information. Whatever the reason, if you’re fairly certain that a meeting is not going to be productive, it makes sense to decline the invitation.

How to Say “No” Nicely
Talk to the meeting organizer, and tell him or her that you think it would make sense to hold the meeting at a different time (for instance, after more information has been gathered) or with different people. If you can convince the organizer to reschedule, it would allow everyone involved to spend their time in a more productive manner. And when the meeting eventually does take place, a lot more will be accomplished!

Reason to Decline #2: You’re not the right person to attend the meeting.

If it’s clear that you can’t contribute to a particular meeting (maybe because you don’t have the necessary information or experience), it makes sense to decline the invitation.

How to Say “No” Nicely
Tell the meeting organizer that you don’t think you’re the right person to attend, and explain why. Then recommend someone else in your place. Make sure that the person you’re recommending has the necessary qualifications. The organizer will most likely appreciate your input and guidance.

Reason to Decline #3: There are other, more critical things that you need to do during that time.

If you’ve got a lot of important work to get done, and you simply don’t have the time to attend a certain meeting, that’s a valid reason to decline.

How to Say “No” Nicely
Tell the meeting organizer about the deadlines that you need to meet, and that you don’t have the time to attend. But offer to type up your thoughts on the topic and send them to the organizer before the meeting. That way, the organizer can have your input without you actually being present.


No matter what approach you take, just remember to do two things. First, take the time to talk to the meeting organizer and explain why you’re declining. And second, try to come up with a way to meet the organizer’s needs without actually attending the meeting. Good luck!


Davey, L. (2016, May 17). Polite ways to decline a meeting invitation. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from