My second favourite thing to do at work is to arbitrarily decline meeting invites. (This closely follows answering support tickets sent to me by marking them “Closed -- Won’t Do”.) When declining an invite, you can leave the text reason empty, but I suggest you engage your enemy (the meeting organizer) with a little repartee and see whether you can avoid a meeting altogether.
Here are some of my favorite excuses I've seen (and... used).
“I’m working from home”. This is my favorite. Start here. It isn’t even a good reason to avoid having a meeting because of course you could do a telemeeting. But it is such a lame excuse that it puts the other person off, sending a clear message you’re not interested.
- Advantage: You don’t even have to do anything more.
- Risk: Almost no risk. I say this because nobody has yet shown up to my house.
“I can’t make this, but I’ll send a colleague to represent.” This is so great! There are so many ways this could go. Firstly, you can just never invite the colleague. Secondly, the colleague could decline. Thirdly, the colleague could be so junior as to have absolutely no authority in the meeting, sending a clear signal that you never had any intention of caring about the contents.
- Advantage: A lot more flexibility in your decline.
- Risk: The colleague you ask actually goes and sends you several pages of notes that you have to read, with occasional ‘action item’ land mines.
“I’m sorry that’s not a good time as I’m preparing for another meeting.” The opposite of the above, this (falsely) implies that you love meetings and want to put your best foot forward.
- Advantage: Can be used any time before any meeting in the future, i.e. any time.
- Risk: Now you’ll have to prepare for this meeting to stay on brand, unless you can ensure it never happens.
“Can you check in with my EA?” This works best when you don’t even have an EA!
- Advantage: Delays the organization of the meeting somewhat.
- Risk: They might find a team member who can see your calendar and just organize through them. This is the double edged sword of highly capable team members and why I recommend hiring at slightly below your ability in less than one third of your skills.
“Sorry I’m OOO that day!” Unless their desk is right next to yours, they’ll never know you’re not out of the office at all. If they do see you, you can claim you eventually had to come in for something, evoking their sympathy.
- Advantage: You don’t need provide details. "Out of the office" could mean anything from vacation to a dentist to an appointment to remove a wart. Of course, it’s probably a job interview.
- Risk: Implies you’ll be in another day.
“Can we do this by email or slack?” A super legit strategy. You will receive their questions via email or slack but unfortunately never answer.
- Advantage: Maybe no meeting at all!
- Disadvantage: They send you messages which you either have to read or leave unread, both of which are an inconvenience.
“Just drop by my desk sometime.” Little does the other person know that not only are you never at your desk, but that you’re later going to claim that you don’t even work in the city and, finally, that you don’t even have a desk.
- Advantage: Makes them do research as to where you are, which allows you to hear them coming and hide under your desk.
- Risk: if they DO find your desk, you will never get rid of them. Only do this if you truly have no desk.
“Seems like there are no rooms available at that time. Maybe next week?” Do this after booking another meeting which reserves every available meeting room in the company.
- Advantage: Implies you value face to face contact.
- Risk: They find a room.
- Bigger risk: They might prefer to do a standing meeting in a public area, which means not only you’ll have a meeting, but that you won’t even get to sit.