How Do I Gracefully Decline a Work Holiday Party Invitation?

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Sometimes employees need to decline a work holiday party invitation due to financial reasons. Without telling your employer all of your personal details, what are some of the best ways to politely say you won’t be able to attend?

Here’s what you need to know about gracefully declining a work holiday party invitation.

Know That You Don’t Need To Provide a Reason

When declining an invitation for a work holiday party, many employees may think they need to explain to their employer why they won’t be able to make it. 

Jodi R.R. Smith, president and owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, said this is not necessary. The less said, the better. Those invited may simply respond to the invitation by saying, “Thank you so much for inviting me. I am so sorry I am unable to attend.”

Respond Using the KIPP Formula

The KIPP formula is an acronym created by etiquette and civility expert Rosalinda Oropeza Randall. KIPP stands for “Keep It Polite and Professional.”

In order to use the KIPP formula when declining a work holiday party invitation, you should reply as soon as possible, ideally no later than the RSVP date. Randall also recommends speaking to your manager, though you do not need to divulge your specific reasons as to why you’re not attending, especially if they relate to your personal finance situation.

Simply keep your tone upbeat and say something like, “It sounds like a great event,” or, “I won’t be able to attend due to personal reasons. Have a great time!” That is truthful, polite and professional.

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Decline the Invitation the Same Way You Received It

If you received a work holiday party invite via email or in the mail, Smith said the general guideline is to respond in the same way you received the invitation.

Many written and electronic invitations will include a space where the invitee can send a comment to the host. While it’s not always necessary to include a comment, Randall said it is a good opportunity to make a nice impression, especially when you’re declining to attend. If you’d like to include a comment with your no RSVP for the event, consider the following:

  • Thank you. I know it’ll be an enjoyable event.
  • Unfortunately, I can’t make it. It was a great year, and I look forward to another productive 2023 with (company name).
  • Company X always throws a great event. Regrettably, I’ll have to miss this one. Happy Holidays to all.

Consider This: Do You Need the Facetime?

Before declining a work holiday party invite, even due to financial reasons, take a moment to consider if you need to invest some facetime there. Randall recommends asking yourself the following questions:

  • Would attending this party help further your career?
  • Is this an opportunity to connect with, or introduce yourself to, the right people?

“If you answered yes, perhaps you could find ways to cut some day-to-day expenses, leaving you with the funds to attend the work party,” said Randall. “Consider it an investment in your career.”

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