I certainly don’t condone lying, but the first letter writer in today’s Dear Margo is far more of a victim than a perpetrator. She became friendly with someone “higher up the chain” at her self-described “dream job,” was invited to his birthday party but had to miss it due to illness, and promised to buy him a desired shirt during her family’s trip to Mexico as a belated birthday present. She ended up not visiting that part of Mexico, but the guy still wants his shirt (actually, two of them, and has helpfully provided her with a link where she can buy them)! Worse still, she’s realized that she can’t afford even one of the shirts and admitted that to him. Apparently, he won’t take no for an answer, though. What was she to do but lie and say the shirts were delayed?
It’s too bad that the LW has become trapped in a lie that will shortly be exposed when the shirts never show, but really, maintaining that “polite spine,” as they call it on Etiquette Hell, is particularly hard to maintain in a work situation. The bulk of the guilt truly falls upon her senior coworker, whose greed has put combined social and work pressure to bear on the poor LW. Friends don’t demand presents from other people; frankly, adults don’t demand presents from other people–if you want something that badly, go buy it for yourself. And an executive at an office especially shouldn’t be demanding expensive presents (if he looked at the website, he knows darn well what those shirts cost) from a lower-level employee.
This is a classic example of Toilet Paper Fairy Belief: In addition to forgetting how inappropriate it is for him to demand a present from someone who’s got to keep the higher-ups happy to stay in her job, he’s somehow forgotten about the salary disparity between himself and his junior; in this case, that junior is a full-time student working part time. It’s the same kind of thoughtlessness that leads the boss, who can easily afford to go out to eat every day, to steal his secretary’s lunch from the fridge. He’s completely unaware that the salary he pays her makes her unable to replace that lunch, and perhaps does not even care.
In this case, the LW’s family is apparently well-off enough to invite her to Mexico and presumably pay her way, but it’s incredibly presumptuous of her “work pal” to assume that they’re supporting her financially on a day-to-day basis, if he’s even thinking that deeply about the matter.
Unfortunately, unraveling this situation may have serious negative effects on the LW’s future at her “dream job.” Many times, it’s simply best to keep one’s social and professional lives as separate as possible.