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Being Excluded From Meetings At Work? Here’s How to Handle It

Have you recently realized your team is meeting without you? Maybe it’s a good thing! You can’t know without asking – and you need to ask the right way.

By Fellow.app  •   February 9, 2022  •   6 min read

Although work and life are largely separate things, they can both lead to similar feelings. That’s especially true if you’re being excluded from meetings at work. If you weren’t invited to a meeting that you think merits your involvement, you might feel left out, overlooked, undervalued, or simply upset. These emotions are all understandable, but they might be ill-founded. Here’s how to address things when meetings happen without you.

7 tips to handle being excluded from meetings

Maybe you feel isolated when meetings go on without you. Or maybe you’re grateful to have the time back for other tasks, but you worry your team might miss key points without your presence. Either way, you should say something. Here’s how to do so the right way.

1 Look for possible explanations first

When you’re being excluded from meetings at work, it’s easy to assume the worst. Oh no, they don’t value my input. They think I’m a detriment to their meetings. They don’t like me. Rest assured: That’s not always the case! 

Maybe your team actually thinks they’re doing you a favor when they exclude you. For example, let’s say you spend your days reaching out to local media based on a publicity strategy your leadership develops. You know firsthand that pitching and media relations require a lot of time and effort. Maybe leadership thinks you’re so good at this work that your time is better spent doing that than sitting in on strategy meetings.

If that’s the case, all your feelings of being excluded are unfounded. Your team isn’t excluding you from a place of negativity – they’re giving you space to do your best work. Of course, if you do have an interest in helping with strategy, you can ask leadership how you could get involved.

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2 Be honest about your situation and feelings

In the above situation, you could’ve saved yourself a lot of grief if you’d taken a moment to self-reflect. You could’ve asked yourself: If the team members in the meeting are all leaders, do I really need to be present? Or maybe you’ve been left out of a meeting about a project that involves non-managerial team members. But if you’re not involved in that project, why do you feel bad about being left out of that meeting?

If you’ve been left out of a meeting to which you fully expected to be invited, there’s a different set of questions to ask. You might want to explore whether your overall demeanor has been welcoming – are you wearing your stress on your sleeve? Nobody wants to bother that person with another meeting – it might seem bad for their mental health. Likewise, if you don’t socialize with your teammates, don’t expect to be invited to any newly formed teams.

3 Interact more with your coworkers

As the above example shows, being excluded from meetings at work can be a consequence of your colleagues not really knowing you. They might feel reluctant to invite you or think that you have no interest in meeting with them. If you do want to join in on meetings and avoid feelings of isolation, make a point to actually chat with your coworkers. 

As you get to know your fellow team members, you’ll all get a sense of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. When it comes time to figure out whose skills and strengths would best serve an important meeting, your chances of being invited increase. Think about it: If you’re great at time management, why wouldn’t you get invited to help schedule everyone at the start of a project?

4 Be sure that your involvement would be valuable

Even if your team members do know you well, maybe they haven’t seen that your personal to-do list is extremely organized and detailed. In that case, only you would know that you can serve the meeting as an excellent notetaker. That’s a skill you can bring to the table to make your involvement in the meeting clearly valuable.

It’s also a skill you should keep top-of-mind as you build the case you’ll present to get yourself included. When you ask to be part of a meeting, your request will be more powerful if you explain why you should be there. Put another way, simply wanting to be involved in the discussion doesn’t mean you should be there. But if the current group consistently struggles with poor notetaking, your presence as a skilled notetaker has obvious benefits.

5 Go to your manager

Let’s say your issue is mostly that non-leadership, non-management team members aren’t including you in meetings. Maybe that’s because your work just doesn’t pertain to their meetings. But what if you still can’t help but feel excluded? In that case, you can ask your manager during your next one-on-one if you can take on other work that could land you a seat at the table. 

Admittedly, this step can be a bit risky to take. You could come off like you’re complaining about your colleagues, or you could face doubts from your manager that you can take on more work. That’s why you should be prepared to answer the question of why you, of all people, should be doing more. You can cite your best skills and recent works to make the case. 

6 Reflect on the situation again

Let’s say you take all the above steps and still feel excluded. In that case, it’s time for some more self-reflection. Was being excluded from meetings ever really the problem? Maybe the issue is that you’re searching low and high for new things to do because your current work isn’t pleasing you. Or maybe you’re struggling to adapt to the company culture.

Alternatively, let’s say you love your work and your team but feel a bit burned about just one meeting to which you weren’t invited. In that case, let bygones be bygones. Occasionally not getting to partake in certain meetings isn’t a sign that your team dislikes you or your work. If anything, be grateful for the occasional meeting that happens without you – that’s time you get back to focus on other key tasks.

7 Stay neutral no matter what

As you take the above steps, your emotions could start flaring. Nobody likes feeling excluded, looked down upon, or otherwise maligned. But one of the worst things you could do is give in to the extremes of these emotions. Instead, you should make a conscious effort to stay neutral as you figure out why you’re being excluded from meetings.

To be clear, staying neutral doesn’t mean bottling up your emotions. It means kindly expressing how you feel without making accusations or throwing anyone under the bus. It’s the difference between “You left me out!” and “I was wondering, what could I do to be included in the next meeting?” The former is all urgency and red flags. The latter expresses the same emotions while opening an objective dialogue. The end result could be an invite to the next meeting.

It’s not always a cause for concern

Being excluded from meetings at work isn’t always a reason to panic or feel bad. You might learn that your team thought they were respecting your time, or you might realize the meeting really did not concern you. Or maybe you and your teammates will realize you should’ve been there – and then, you’ll get invited next time. When that meeting comes around, you can use Fellow to take better notes and follow up on a rewarding, meaningful conversation.

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