Q. I'm a PA to a successful entrepreneur. Since he found out that I grew up on a council estate, he keeps showering me with gifts. I don't think it's a sexual thing but he came from a similar background and I think he just feels guilty about having so much money. At first, I accepted the presents happily but he's just bought my mum a spa break and I'm finding it increasingly awkward. I don't want to offend him and I like working for him. What's your advice?
Jeremy Bullmore: He may, as you suggest, feel guilty about being rich; but it's just as likely that he simply adores being able to give you - and now your mum - the sorts of presents that he and his family could never have dreamed of when he was your age. My strong instinct is that it's all entirely innocent, with no ulterior motive, and evidence of nothing more than a rather endearing naivety. I suspect he'd be embarrassed, and maybe even quite hurt, if you so much as hinted that you thought there might be more to it than that.
But I think this spa break present gives you a chance, very gently, to draw a bit of a line. When your mum comes back from her weekend, tell him how thrilled she was - and how thrilled you were - that she had such a wonderful time. You hope you'll be able to do the same for other people some time.
In the meantime, magnificent though his generosity has been, you're going to ask him, very reluctantly, to be rather less generous in the future. You've loved his presents - they've given you great pleasure; but your parents have always encouraged you to live within your means and that's something you feel strongly about. It's become a matter of some pride to you. So if he still feels he'd like to, then maybe a little something on a birthday would be more than all right; but anything other than that will begin to make you feel uncomfortable. You do hope he understands.
I know the logic doesn't quite hold up, but he'll know what you're saying and I don't think he'll take offence.