when a coworker asks you to host a product party

A reader writes:

You answered a question for me earlier this year (regarding being a working mom and needing to adhere to a strict schedule) and the insight provided by both you and your readers was enlightening. I since accepted a new job and am settling into my role nicely — utilizing a great deal of the advice garnered from that question/post.

I have found myself in a bit of an uncomfortable situation and I am eager to know how you would handle this. I was recently approached via email by a coworker who sells beauty products as a side job. She asked me if I would be interested in hosting a “beauty party” for all of my friends. She attempted to pitch it as “I’m not trying to make money…everyone can shop at my consultant discount…I just want to meet new people,” but then she closed the email with, “You’d really be helping me out if you could do this.”

Yikes! I am in no way interested in these products, nor do I want to push them on my friends and family. She sent me the email early this morning, but I have yet to respond. The awkward factor is climbing by the minute, as I sit directly across from her in our open-concept office layout. Her title technically puts her above me, but she does not manage me directly. I am struggling to put the words together to politely decline, but I don’t want to be rude or create any friction.

“Those parties just aren’t my thing.”

Or, “You know, I’ve just never liked those types of parties. But thank you for offering!”

Or, “No, thank you. But good luck with it!”

If she continues to pressure you, repeat as necessary. If it gets over the top, you can get more assertive (“I’m really not interested; please don’t keep asking”), but hopefully you won’t need to.

Whatever you do, don’t make an excuse like “our calendar is really busy this month” or “we’re on a strict budget right now.” That will just open the door for her to ask you again in the future. You want it to stick, so make sure your no isn’t about circumstances, just simply a “no, this isn’t for me” type of no.

And don’t feel guilty. To some extent, the people involved with these “social sales”/multi-level marketing businesses rely on their friends/coworkers/family feeling obligated to say yes, which is Not Nice. She’s the one putting you in an awkward situation; you are not doing anything awkward by saying no.

Say no, be cheerful about it, and move on.

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