my coworker wants me to have a sleepover with her

A reader writes:

Do you have any advice on how to decline a social invitation from a coworker when they insist that you pick the date? I recently was caught off guard by a coworker who invited me to a sleepover. (I am cringing just typing this – for context, we are both female and under 25, so I guess she is trying to have a fun “girls’ night in,” but still…) When I asked when it was (so I could politely decline by saying I wasn’t available that evening), she said she would have it whenever I was free.

Other than small talk at meetings or in the lunchroom, I don’t know this coworker very well, but I get the sense she is lonely and trying to make new friends. She has followed up with me several times asking when I would be available, and I am unsure how to politely decline this invitation (and potential others) without hurting her feelings or tarnishing our professional relationship. Any insight you have on how to handle this would be greatly appreciated!

A sleepover invitation is oddly intimate, particularly from someone you haven’t hung out with socially before, and particularly from a coworker. (I admit that I had sleepovers well into my late 20s, but they were more of the “we’re going to be out late so sleep at my house” type, not the “come and sleep at my house just for the joy of a sleepover” type.)

In any case, the good news here is that in a way, sleepovers are easier to decline than if she’d invited you to something else, because you can come up with a reason that isn’t “I don’t want to spend time with you.” For instance:

“I have a thing about sleeping in my own bed.”
“I can’t because of my dog.”
“I can’t sleep with someone else in the room.”
“I’m not really a sleepover person.”
… and so forth.

That said, are you open to spending time with her at all? If so, you could suggest doing something that’s less of a commitment and doesn’t involve pajamas, like grabbing lunch together or getting a drink after work.

If you’re not up for hanging out with her at all, though, you’ll probably eventually need to tell her that, since someone who leaps straight to a sleepover is unlikely  to end her overtures there.

So that brings us back to your broader question of how to turn down an invitation that isn’t attached to a specific date, since these force you to issue a more direct “I don’t want to.” Which is tricky in any situation, but can be especially so in the workplace, because you’re going to continue to see and interact with the person.

I’d look for a way to say that you’re not interested that doesn’t make it about her. For instance:

“My schedule is crazy so it’s hard for me to get together out of work.”
“My free time tends to be taken up with my xylophone lessons.”
“You are awesome, but I try to keep work and non-work separate so that I can disconnect and relax.”

Anyone else been invited to a sleepover by a coworker they don’t know well? I would like to hear about it if so…

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 151 comments… read them below }

  1. Bryan*

    Wasn’t there another topic previously on sleep overs? How often does this happen?

    On a side note, if she’s lonely can you invite her to lunch or something?

      1. Anon*

        At my first real job out of college, this somehow happened to me and I look back and think what the heck were we thinking? I worked with another recent college grad and our two managers in a small office that supported about 60 field staff. One manager was in her late 20’s and married, the other divorced in her 30’s with a child. The younger of the two thought it would be great to all ‘hang out’ at her house, drink and then sleep over. I guess myself and the other recent grad thought – cool, we don’t have to worry about driving home, so we went, and stayed. I always felt like there was some agenda behind the whole thing, but I’m not sure what, and strangely I’m feeling weird about the whole situation now 20 years later!

    1. some1*

      “On a side note, if she’s lonely can you invite her to lunch or something?”

      Per my comment below, that’s what I find most bizarre. Typically co-worker friendships start out with going on coffee runs or lunch during work, or going to Happy Hour, followed by an invitation to come over and leave at a reasonable time.

        1. some1*

          Totally. Or instead of asking someone out for the first time to go for a drink or dinner, asking them to go away on vacation with you.

          1. Betsy*

            That actually happened to me! When I was 18, a much older guy invited me to go to a 3-day overnighting event for our first date. Looking back, I am absolutely horrified that I accepted, and am incredibly lucky that he was, if not a gentleman, at least not violent and not a skilled manipulator.

          2. Catzie*

            That actually did happen to me with my husband! It was a couple dates in, and he asked me if I wanted to go on a cruise with him in three months, because he was sending his final payment in. I said no, thinking that I wasn’t even sure we would still be dating then. Three months later we were living together and I was wishing I had decided to go! But I’m sure that’s the exception, not the norm.

            1. Jamie*

              Yep – I’ve been married twice and both time they talked about getting married within days. First husband it was our first date.

              It happens.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          That actually happened to me! On our first (and only) date, the guy told me I’d have to pretend I was Catholic when I met his mom so she wouldn’t be upset when we got married. He was not kidding at all.

            1. Lily in NYC*

              Ha, it was really awkward because I lived near him and was friendly with his very normal brother.

          1. straws*

            Ugh. I had a first date that ended with me saying I’d be happy to hang out as friends but didn’t see it going beyond that and then him bursting into tears and telling me that I was his soul mate. I suppose at least he didn’t ask me to fake a religion though.

          2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            It happened to my mom too, in college. She went on a first date with a guy (and it was something like walking to the student union building to get a soft-serve ice cream cone) and on the way home he told her that he’d always thought he’d marry a redhead (my mom is blonde) but that she would do. Umm, no.

  2. Allison*

    I sorta thought “sleepovers” ended at high school graduation. After that, you only “sleep over” if you’re sexually intimate with someone, you’re crashing after a party, or you’re visiting a friend from out of town. But for an adult to spend the night just for fun and call it a “sleepover” sounds a little odd. This co-worker seems a bit socially awkward and out of touch with how women her age normally socialize.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Yes, all of this. The only other circumstance I can see is “we’ve been friends from childhood so we are going to have a sleepover for Old Times’ Sake” and reliving memories of being eight years old. And even then.

      If you would like to socialize, could you suggest “I really can’t do a sleepover, but how about lunch Thursday/coffee Saturday afternoon/joining me at a meeting of my pagan drum circle?” or something else not quite so…awkward…but extending the hand of friendship?

      1. KJR*

        I really like the “I really can’t do a sleepover” response because it doesn’t offer any explanation that could be refuted.

    2. Anoners*

      I do have to say, that me and my bestie of 15 years do have sleepovers still. It sounds really lame, but it’s fun!

      Def. not so fun when it involves a coworker you don’t know that well.

      1. Felicia*

        Sleepovers are the best with close friends!:) My idea of fun is possibly lame though. But even as a kid, they’re not ok with strangers.

      2. thenoiseinspace*

        Yup. I’m 26 and my friends and I do it all the time. I think the difference is the terminology – we usually say “come hang out and crash for the night,” even though it basically consists of all the usual sleepover activities – pizza, movies, making cookies, etc. And never with coworkers we don’t even know, obvi.

        1. OP*

          My friends and I do that too! I don’t think sleepovers are lame at all :) I just found this situation awkward because she really is only an aquaintance to me.

          1. Felicia*

            That’s definitely the awkward part. Maybe some day you’ll become sleepover level friends with this coworker, but it’s not an appropriate first time hanging out activity. There are a lot of friend steps before someone is allowed to see you in your pajamas. Also I would love to become friends with the OP and all others who said they still have sleepovers, and then come over for a sleepover. It’s what my friends and I do for fun . Like you mentioned, we don’t call it a sleepover but that’s essentially what it is.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              So, you’re saying after the AAM meetups happen a few times in a given locale, there should then be an AAM sleepover?

          2. Ruffingit*

            That is totally awkward, you’re absolutely right to feel this way. I think I’d go with the “I don’t do sleepovers, but are you free for lunch on Monday?” That way you don’t give an excuse for why you don’t do sleepovers and you end the sentence on a note of “happy to get to know you in a more appropriate context.” That assumes you would be OK with having lunch with this colleague though. Are you?

          3. Gjest*

            Maybe she’s heard you talk about sleepovers with your close friends, and it’s a really awkward attempt at becoming good enough friends to have a sleepover with you?

            1. Saturn9*


              If sleepovers are something Coworker has heard the OP talking about at work it makes all kinds of sense: inviting people to participate in an activity they enjoy but with you is basically Making Friends 101. To be clear, “sleepover” is still oddly intimate for a first hangout but knowing it’s something the OP does makes the offer itself ~100% less bizarre.

            2. Dan*

              Yeah, this makes a lot of sense. I’m visualizing Amy from Big Bang Theory inviting Penny to a sleep over because she wants so badly to be her friend.

          4. Ellie H.*

            I am so jealous! I would love to have a sleepover. I only have one good female friend who lives close to me, though and I doubt she’d be into it. There was a stretch when I slept over at her house almost every weekend in high school and had kind of forgotten about that era. I’m sad to miss out on this, and I’ve also never (yet?) had the experience of living with a roommate I was really close to, at least for longer than about four months. My best friend usually stays with me when she comes into town but the idea of a sleepover party weirdly seems like a ton of fun to me, even though I am definitely the introverted type.

        2. Katniss*

          Yup, I’m 31 and my 3 besties and I had a sleepover for my birthday, with significant others invited. And we also tend to have “come over and crash and we’ll do sleepover things” nights fairly often.

          1. VintageLydia*

            My birthday is coming up in a few months and my three best friends from high school all live out of town and this is definitely my plan for that weekend if I can manage it. I’m planning a tea party component. I might be turning 28 but I am definitely a 12 year old.

            Note these are friends I’ve had for nearly 15 years, though. In that time I’ve only made one other friend I’d even consider this type of thing with.

        3. jmkenrick*

          Also 26, also still have sleepovers. Not super often, but with friends who I don’t get to see a ton? Or my sisters, who I miss living at home with? Definitely.

      3. Ruffingit*

        Totally OK to do this with a bestie of 15 years, I’m all for that. Co-worker who jumps straight to sleepover though? No. That is just odd.

        1. KLH*

          I got invited to a sleepover moving party once.

          THe invitation was to come over on Friday night and help them pack, sleep on their floor and have breakfast, and them help them move. Yes, the words “sleepover” and “party” were used. The person writing the “invitation” was over the age of 40. I don’t know how they managed when only 1 person took him up on his “invitation.”

          1. Amy*

            I have a happy “sleepover moving party” story! I was moving/flying (by myself) out of a city where I had been for barely six months. Two friends that I had made there offered to come over the day/night before to help pack/clean, hang out, and go with me to the airport the next morning at the crack of dawn. There was no furniture so we had to sleep on the floor and I was greatly touched by their support.

            1. Felicia*

              When my BFF moved, me and two other friends helped her move and then we had an amazing moving sleepover party. Only there was no invitation and it wasn’t called that. She texted us, and said she would repay us in pizza and beer , and we watched movies then crashed for the night.

              1. KLH*

                Aw! Those both sound like nice sets of friends. I think it worked because they were both small groups of friends and the offers were from the heart. And it wasn’t disguised as fun in order to get them to do work.

                Apparently the Dear Prudence video today is about a woman invited to a painting party, which also violates my “don’t ask people to work by disguising it as fun” ethos. I don’t like to pack or move. I don’t like to paint. I don’t ask others to suffer with me.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I helped someone do that once–they asked in a very friendly way and they fed me pizza, but then kind of dropped me. I wasn’t that surprised; they mostly ignored me while I was painting. They just wanted someone else to do it with (mostly for!) them.

                  I think they should have just done it themselves.

                2. Dan*

                  I had a similar thing happen a few years ago.

                  A casual friend mentioned that she was moving across town and I offered to help if she needed it. She took me up on the offer and I was glad to help. It was just me and her mid-twenties daughter helping her that day. I don’t know how they would have done it if I hadn’t been there to help.

                  I never heard from her again. Weird.

            2. Jen in RO*

              I am flying from Bucharest to Vienna in 2 weeks to help my childhood friend move! (She is getting divorced.) We are definitely doing sleepover things, and maybe sleeping-on-the-floor things.

    3. Jamie*

      I did one, once – I had recently moved to an area where 3 friends lived and we did a girls night sleep over at my place.

      It was a whole retro thing, did our hair, painted nails, talked about sex (never too old to learn!)…ate a ton of junk food and drank way too many cosmos and french martinis.

      Then we did an experiment to try to figure out if you could get a cow to climb a flight of stairs. I don’t know why (but it was after the drinking.)

      But it was a one time thing for very, very close friends as a goof…in a million years I can’t see how a co-worker would ask someone and think this is a good idea or something that people do.

      1. PurpleChucks*

        I’ve never heard of a French martini before, so I Googled it… I’m so getting a French martini after work!

      2. fposte*

        The urban legend is that you can get a cow up the stairs but not down again. Your science was incomplete!

        1. Jamie*

          OMG – that is totally how it started – it was some offhand comment about the urban legend. You weren’t even there and you know what triggered the events of grown women going up a flight of stairs on all fours.

          And yes, we were incomplete scientists – probably why the Nobel committee hasn’t called.

          (I was living in ruralish Mass – West of Wistah, as it were, and my next door neighbor did have an actual real cow. But no animals were harmed in the making of our sleepover.)

        2. AB*

          This was a local college prank, only with a lama. Seriously… they found someone who had a pet zebra and brought it up to the top floor of a college administration building. They had to lift the lama out with a crane because it wouldn’t go down the stairs.

            1. Elizabeth*

              No, it actually was a lama. The Dalai Lama, to be exact.

              (Ogden Nash:
              The one-l lama,
              He’s a priest.
              The two-l llama,
              He’s a beast.
              And I will be
              A silk pajama
              There isn’t any
              Three-l lllama.)

              1. fposte*

                *The author’s attention has been drawn to a type of fire known as the three-alarmer. Pooh.

                [Footnote original to Ogden Nash, not me!]

          1. Amy*

            the entire Sideways Stories from Wayside School series made me really, really uneasy as a kid. I have no idea why, but to this day even reading about the books on wikipedia and remembering the stories gives me the heebie jeebies

            1. Diet Coke Addict*

              Oh my god, yes. I run across people who LOVED those books, but they just disturbed me in some deep and creepy way that I cannot explain.

            2. BarefootLibrarian*

              Oh my gosh! I completely get that! I still have the occasional nightmare about the kid in all the coats who was really a rat (I think…?….don’t really want to reread them to fact check)!

            3. Ellie H.*

              I loved them, but they are definitely legitimately creepy – they’re supposed to be, though. I usually hate that kind of thing (and I’m not a fan of absurdism either, which they also fall into the genre of) but I really loved them.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        That sounds amazing. I miss having my long-time friends close enough to even do anything with, let alone have a sleepover. It’s been years and we only talk on Facebook now.

  3. Lori*

    I normally agree with the straightforward response, “I really prefer to sleep in my own bed” but since that still might open you up to another evening activity (just without the sleepover) I might make light and offer an alternate suggestion. Like, “I don’t sleep over until at least the third date, but I’d love to grab lunch!” Assuming you don’t mind grabbing lunch with her. Even if you do, it might be worth extending the kindness. This socially unaware person (not the letter writer, the coworker) kind of breaks my heart a little.

    1. Sadsack*

      Plus, what if she offers to accommodate the “sleep in my own bed” thing by offering to sleep at OP’s place? Grabbing lunch seems harmless and may be a good idea in the long run since they do work together.

    2. Allison*

      Problem is, now that the OP’s co-worker has made such an awkward proposition, the OP may not want to hang out with her at all. Who knows what other weird invitations she might get, or awkward behavior she may have to deal with? I know it’s important to be kind to others, but is the OP morally obligated to engage with someone who makes her feel uncomfortable just to make that person happy?

      1. tesyaa*

        She’s not morally obligated to engage, but she should be extra sympathetic towards someone who’s so socially awkward. Certainly, no making fun of her or joining in if others make fun. There was a heck of a lot of sympathy for the woman with the phantom pregnancy and a lot of praise of the kind attitudes towards her. One should be just as kind to a coworker who thinks a sleepover is a good idea as to one with a phantom pregnancy. They both have real problems.

    3. OP*

      Lori, I completely agree! I would definitely be open to having lunch with this coworker, or going out for a drink after work together. The sleepover invitation was odd to me not only because it was a sleepover, but also because of how I was invited. It wasn’t, “I’m having some friends over tonight, you’re welcome to come!” It was “I’d like to invite you to a sleepover. Please tell me when you’d be free.”

      1. Felicia*

        It is really awkward that she asked you for a sleepover right off the bat. I’m probably your age, and my friends and I have sleepovers all the time, but they’re mostly because we all live a 40 minute to an hour bus ride apart, even though we’re all in the same (very spread out) city, so it starts with “let’s hang out at my place tonight!” where we generally watch romantic comedies, have something bad for us for dinner and drink wine. Then before we know it it’s 11pm and it’s no fun to take the bus at that time, so we decide to stay over. But it’s not so much of a “yay sleepover!” and more, home is far, convenient place to crash after hanging out all night.

        1. Felicia*

          That being said, although i don’t find a sleepover weird, you don’t do that with a new friend. You start with something like coffee, or a drink after work. So “sorry, I’m really not comfortable with sleepovers. But i’d love to hang out! do you want to grab a drink at x place after work on y date?” should work with any reasonable person, since you’re still open to being friends.

    4. some1*

      Actually, I had a co-worker (in her 20’s) who had sleepovers with her friends from church all the time. They would watch Twilight or Disney movies and eat junk food all night. But she never invited anyone from work.

      1. the_scientist*

        Not that I want to unnecessarily stereotype churchgoers but the “slumber party’ seems to be pretty popular among the early twenties female church set. I’ve even seen photos of several slumber-party themed bachelorette parties on facebook (and I say early twenties, of course, because all these women were married by 24).

    5. JamieG*

      ” “I don’t sleep over until at least the third date, but I’d love to grab lunch!” ”

      I love it! It doesn’t give a reason she can argue against/any sort of mixed signal she can misinterpret (unless she thinks you actually thought she was hitting on you, I guess, but that’s a lot less awkward to clear up), it indicates you actually are okay with hanging out under other circumstances, and the humor swooshes past the weirdness of straight-up declining an invitation.

      1. Tina*

        Except what if she thinks after they have lunch three times, that then it’ll be ok for a sleepover? We already know the co-worker is socially awkward, and if she’s a literal person, she may not recognizing the intent behind the humor.

        1. Dana*

          Yeah, with her awkward phrasing of the sleepover request (plus the request itself), I could see her mentally starting the ‘date’ countdown: 3 lunches = sleepover!

    6. WFBP*

      Idk…if this coworker is awkward enough to actually invite what amounts to a stranger to have a sleepover (say what??), this particular wording might take things in an entirely new direction the OP might not be open to. I’d leave it with “sleepovers are hard for me to do (ending any ‘that’s ok, we’ll do your place!’ replies), but how about lunch on Tuesday?” as was suggested somewhere above.

      I just can’t imagine this person would respond ‘normally’ – she may think “ok, lunch 3 times, then a sleepover!!” OP wasn’t kidding with the ‘socially awkward’ thing. Geez.

  4. Yup*

    It sounds like she was trying to strike up a friendship by extending a invitation to hang out, and overshot the mark. If you’re up for hanging out with her in other circumstances, I’d say something like, “Thanks for the invite but I’m not really much for sleepovers. But I do love goofy comedies / Middle Eastern restaurants / walking my dog in the park — would you want get together and do Thing next Saturday afternoon?”

    And off topic, but I will forever hear LizT’s comment whenever the topic of sleepover comes up on AAM.

  5. Barbara*

    A bunch of my work friends and I had a sleepover several years ago, just for a lark — but we were all very close friends! And, FYI, in our 30s. It was just a way to not have to worry about drinking too much and talk all we wanted to, unlike our short lunch conversations. And like I said, we were an unusually close bunch of gals. But this invitation sounds super weird! OP needs to send an update when she resolves it.

    1. sunny-dee*

      The closest I’ve had to a “sleepover” is a couple of years ago, when a bunch of my friends and I rented a hotel room for a girls’ weekend to celebrate our 30th birthdays. And we’ve talked about doing that again. But that’s not really a “sleepover” sleepover, especially since we all live in different cities.

      This person could be crazy creepy, or she could just be very shy and a little socially awkward and that’s her way of reaching out. Like, they have sleepovers in “Grease” and that looks fun! That’s what fun friends do together!

    2. MaryMary*

      I think the rare “There’s a blizzard, you live 30 miles from work, I live half a mile from work. Why don’t you crash on my couch tonight?” sleepover might be ok.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That was the case during the ice storm in 2007 for me. I had to crash at my coworker’s house for a night between the motel and when I finally was able to go home. It wasn’t a sleepover, but it was very kind of her to offer.

  6. Dan*

    I’m not going to touch on the strangeness of this coming out of the blue, but I will note that there two types of people I know at work: There are people I know *through* work, and there are people I work *with*.

    Those people I must see and interact with on work related tasks? Them, I hang out quite rarely after work. At my previous job, my social group were people I saw at work, but didn’t have to do meetings or anything like that with.

    1. RJ*

      I love Bartleby. I bust that out all the time and people look at me strangely. Then I chortle to myself, and they get scared and move along.

  7. Elle D*

    I can empathize to an extent with the co-worker in this scenario. I lived with 3-4 close friends all through college, so every day for 4 years was like a sleepover. When I first graduated and moved to a new city where I knew no one and had no roommate, it was impossibly lonely. I never attempted to resolve this loneliness by inviting a random female co-worker to have a slumber party at my house, but I understand the sentiment behind it. She may think this is a genuinely kind invitation that she would gladly accept if the roles were reversed.

    Since she’s already put it all out there, I don’t see the harm in being (mostly) honest with her. If you’re open to just hanging out with her, you can say something like “I really appreciate the invitation, but I really value my alone time so I don’t enjoy sleepovers. Maybe we could go for [coffee/lunch/dinner/happy hour] next week instead?” If my hunch that she’s just lonely is correct, she’ll probably be appreciative of your honesty and excited to have a social plan in her future. She may even realize her invitation was too forward and learn from it. I don’t see the harm in at least grabbing coffee with her just to be polite, unless you’re getting vibes that even coffee would be a painful experience for you.

    If you have no interest in hanging out with her ever, next time she brings it up just tell her you don’t really enjoy sleepovers. If she presses about other activities, you can just tell her your really busy the next few weeks. Hopefully she’ll take the hint.

  8. Anoners*

    Does anyone rememer Animaniacs? That really deranged 90s cartoon? Anyway, this made me think of a segment they used to do called “Good idea, bad idea”, and they’d like reinact two extreme situations.

    “Good idea, going to lunch with a coworker. Bad idea, inviting a stranger to a sleepover and holding them hostage”.

    Anyway, now i’m having flashbacks of that cartoon. Looking back I can’t beleive how insane it was.

        1. LCL*

          Meet Pinky and the Brain who want to rule the universe
          Good feathers flock together Slappy whacks ’em with her purse
          Buttons chases Mindy, while Rita sings a verse
          The writers flipped, I have no script,
          Why bother to rehearse?

          Since you got it stuck in my brain thought I’d return the favor. God I miss that show! I used to tell people my black and white 90 pound greyhound/border collie mix was an animaniac, when I was asked what kind of dog she was.

  9. Sabrina*

    Yeah. No. I stopped with sleepovers at 16. Which is the excuse I’d give. Or maybe “My CPAP is kind of a hassle to travel with.” Truth.

    1. TL*

      I mean, my friends have slept over at my place (or I have at theirs) for various reasons many times since I was 16. We just don’t call them sleepovers anymore and it generally involves either a way more alcohol or way more traveling (or both).

      1. ano*

        Yeah, there is a difference between a sleepover and “how about we do X, and then you can stay afterwards in the spare room/on the couch?”

        Sleepover is very pajamas, pillow fights, doing makeup… kinda reminds me of the film Grease. ;)

  10. MaryMary*

    OP, is it possible your coworker is awkwardly suggesting a romantic sleepover? I think all the same advice on declining the invitation still applies, but assuming that’s not your preference you might want to be sensitive if you decide to suggest to get lunch or a drink instead.

  11. BadPlanning*

    Is the OPs coworker Amy from The Big Bang Theory? She ropes Penny and Bernadette into having a sleepover night and makes them play Truth and Dare, etc because she’s never been to a slumber party before.

  12. Mena*

    I think I would kindly say, ‘oh, no thank you’ and keep repeating. Alternatively, hiding behind the need to take care of a pet is always good. And if she offers to come to your place, ‘oh, no, I don’t have room.’

    And keep repeating in a nice tone of voice.

    And ugh, what a psycho.

    1. OP*

      The thing is, I don’t think she is a psycho! I think she is lonely, and since we get along as coworkers, she wants to extend our relationship outside of the workplace. I want to be kind and supportive as a coworker, but I don’t feel comfortable sleeping over at her house.

      I like Alison’s idea: “My schedule is crazy so it’s hard for me to get together out of work.” Followed by “Why don’t we grab lunch on Wednesday?”

      1. fposte*

        If you’re game for lunch or coffee, that’s the best deflection and it’s much easier than a total “I will never do anything with you.” It’s a “yes” to the “can we do something aside from work?” subtext.

      2. D*

        I think that it’s ok to ask her to do something like go to lunch or HH–normal social things co-workers do. I would just be wary. You may find out she’s a great person, but she also may be someone who, once you get to know better, is someone you want to keep your distance from.

        1. some1*

          I think this is an important point. If you do want to grab coffee or lunch together, go for it, but definitely keep an eye out for any other signs of boundary-crossing.

        2. Dan*

          …You may find out she’s a great person, but she also may be someone who, once you get to know better, is someone you want to keep your distance from.

          That can be said about anyone

      3. WFBP*

        I like the idea of lunch during the work week, because it has a set time limit. If you go to happy hour after work, you may have difficulty extracting yourself when you want to leave.

        Good luck, please update us on how this goes!!

      4. Mena*

        No Dear, think Pyscho. This is so way-too-pushy-and-intimate. Unless she is 12, she is nuts. Please be careful.

        1. Dan*

          That’s kinda harsh. It really sounds more like someone who’s socially clumsy than someone to worry about.

  13. Sandrine*

    Well, I actually had a sleepover with a coworker recently. Male. Older than I am. We’re quite the friends now.

    Boyfriend could have been pissed, except Friend is gay so we mostly talked about relationships and told jokes the entire time. I felt like a kid, it was awesome.

      1. Sandrine*

        It was, and we’re probs doing it again Friday night since Boyfriend is so tired from his current work assignment (2 hours and a half commute each way) that he’ll probably be sleeping most of the weekend.

  14. Mary*

    How about when your boss asks to share a hotel room with you? One cheap butt company I worked for made people share rooms when having a sales, kick off, user conference etc. You could room with whoever you wanted. My boss would always ask me to room with her (yes I am a female). Not good and awkward, especially when you had co-workers going out after hours. Meanwhile I had to turn them down as my boss liked lights off at 10:00pm. I thought I circumvented the issue, when before this came up again, I had already asked another co-worker to share the room. When my manager asked I told her I already had a roomie. Best laid plans of mice and men, my co-worker snored like a freight train and I didn’t sleep for three nights!

  15. Marmite*

    My not-quite-three-year-old had a “sleepover” with his cousins over the holidays when Grandma very kindly offered to have all the grandkids so the other adults in the family could go to the local theatre’s seasonal offering together. I have no idea what sort of crack she gave the kids, but my son apparently had the most amazing time ever and his tiny little mind was blown by the whole sleepover experience. Ever since he has been inviting anyone and everyone to sleepovers, often within five minutes of meeting them.

    Until this post I was fully expecting him to grow out of this habit by the time he’s old enough to hold down a job.

    1. Judy*

      I can certainly tell you that 8 & 10 year olds cook up sleepover plans with friends, cousins and grandparents whenever they can. I keep having to explain to them that they need to have the parents call me, or get the phone number so I can call the parents. I also have to explain that there are very few places you can call and invite yourselves. Pretty much only your grandparents houses when you are that age. Now if their cousins lived closer, we’d be in trouble. But they facetime a lot, so I’d expect lots of plans.

      I’m crazy enough to arrange to go to Gatlinburg with my kids and my sisters family for spring break, just so the cousins can hang out.

      1. Judy*

        Oh, and when they came home once and said “Grandma always cooks the best breakfasts!” I wondered where they stayed, because my mom gave us cereal for breakfast.

  16. Anonymous*

    I thinking that this whole thread might be a useful start for discussion on how to develop some automatic responses to that buy you time. E.g. when someone wants to you work late, or commit to supporting a charity etc. etc.

    1. Katieinthemountains*

      For things like donating a dollar at check-out, I use a cheerful, “No, thanks!” with a big smile. The thanks doesn’t really fit in those situations, but it’s hard to argue with.
      For working late type things, I tend to look regretful and say, “Oh, I have a thing at six.” Sometimes that thing is a commitment to other people. Sometimes it’s a workout or other commitment to myself, but I just try to look like I would if I could without giving much explanation. (My leaving doesn’t result in an undue burden on my coworkers, so I don’t feel bad at all about managing my workaholic boss’s expectations.)

      1. Anonymous*

        I like “I have a thing at six”. I’m going to steal that. My ‘thing’ will be sitting on the couch and being a hermit, but nobody needs to know that!

  17. PoohBear McGriddles*

    I was thinking this may be one of those times where “No” is a complete sentence. But OP seems to know her coworker well enough to deduce that she’s lonely and not looking for anything romantic. Maybe slumber parties from her younger years were the last time she really had fun and felt connected.
    That doesn’t mean OP has to indulge her. It’s a nice gesture to suggest lunch – especially since that happens during the work day so it’s not really after hours. But putting it off until sometime in the indefinite future has risk – she may wait patiently for a really long time.

  18. Allison*

    What I want to know is where she got the idea to propose a sleepover? Is she herself under the impression that it’s an age appropriate activity for new friends? Or did someone (likely her mom) suggest it? It’s not uncommon for shy, socially awkward people to act on the advice of their parents, who have the best intentions and really want their kid to fit in but are a bit out of touch with what’s considered normal social behavior.

  19. Jill*

    Lots of great advice here. My two cents: something straightforward like “I’m actually not comfortable having a sleepover with a work friend.” Followed by either (a) “Maybe we could get drinks one night after work…” or (b) “I like to keep my work life separate from my home life”, depending on how you feel.

    I would hate to hurt her feelings, and I can relate to her apparent loneliness, as other commenters have noted; but you’d be giving her a gift by (kindly) leading her to understand that her invitation is not how things are done in our professional culture.

  20. Kate*

    “I can’t do a sleepover, but I can grab lunch on Tuesday.”

    I don’t like the idea of coming up with an excuse, saying that you like to “sleep in your own bed” or have a fictional pet to care for when, down the line, you may be talking about your great vacation coming up (which would obviously require a different bed). And the pet fictional pet thing… that could be a lot of work to keep up that story…. I’m just too lazy to keep up with “mis-truths” so I prefer the simple “no”. There’s really no need for an explanation here….

    1. Mena*

      Kate is right! Polite decline; offer an alternative but not an excuse. You are not obligated to offer an excuse.

  21. mel*

    I agree with Kate…

    The problem with excuses is that it’s an open invitation for negotiation. Even if you don’t want to come out and say “I don’t want to,” she’s likely going to assume that’s the real underlying truth anyway. With the right tone and selection of words, it should be possible to say “We aren’t at the stage of friendship required to make sleepovers a thing” without being hurtful.

    If feeling particularly snarky: “I don’t sleep with someone on the first date!”

    1. Sandrine*

      Sure, I understand the “no is a complete sentence” part, but for some people it could end up being too brutal.

      I’m not saying we have to sugar coat everything we say to avoid potentially making anyone sad, but I think this is a “know your audience” thing.

      I’d rather get a no accompanied with an excuse, than just a “no” .

  22. Anonymous*

    This reminds me of my third day of college when a girl who was shy and wanted to make friends asked me if I wanted to be her girl friend…

  23. Trixie*

    Even if you’re fine with an activity that’s more appropriate for an early-stage friendship, the fact that she even made such an invitation is worrying. I would be waiting for all sorts of other boundary issues to come up.

  24. Amy*

    This happened to me at my first two professional jobs! The first was at my boss’ house an hour outside of the city where we worked and I lived. She had a going-away party for me and made me sleep over (I mean, I guess I could have gotten out of it, but I didn’t). She wanted me to stay a SECOND night and I made some excuse that convinced her to drive me the hour home.

    At the second one, I was living an hour away from the city where we worked and a coworker offered to have me over for the night after a work happy hour. It was appropriate and three years later we’re close friends!

  25. LadyBug*

    I just had to comment that this happened to me as well, but the coworker was ten years older than me! I barely knew her at all besides the casual “How are you?”…she asked directly to have me over that night. I was completely shocked and was with a customer at the time (???). I got out of it by stating that I didn’t have any clothes with me or toiletries. She continued to press me after that for drinks or spending the night, etc. I always made up an excuse. I was just far too creeped out by that point.

  26. Muxa CC*

    Whoa! Now, if it was a male coworker asking her out for a sleepover… I bet you she would have walked straight to HR without asking any questions here, right? Why treat an inappropriate invitation from a woman any differently? Inviting her to lunch or a drink instead is, well, saying it is ok to make you uncomfortable in the workplace. A proper way to deal with it is to tell her you are uncomfortable with the idea and ask her to not to make any suggestions like that. If anything else weird ever comes up, go to HR.

  27. thomas hart*

    awhile back a female co worker invited me to a sleep over with her and some of her girl friends and was told i would be the only one staying the night with her.
    was she really inviting me to sleep with her?
    unfortunatly i had to work that night. it was also her birthday.

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