Date posted: 01/02/2024 5 min read

Dear Abby

In our new career ‘agony aunt’ column, we ask the experts for help with some workplace dilemmas and challenges.

Got a question for Abby?

  • In her 20 years in media, 'Acuity' editor Abigail Murison has observed and experienced her fair share of workplace and career dilemmas. Send in your questions, and she’ll pose them anonymously to our panel of experts.


  • A colleague has accused me of bullying them. What do I do?

    HR expert Sharon McDonald says:

    Bullying is very much at the forefront of discussions these days and employees are much more aware of their rights in raising a complaint. However, being the one accused can create feelings of anger, confusion, anxiety and concern for job security. These feelings are heightened when you believe that you are wrongly accused. The important thing is to stay focused and keep your emotions under control while the investigation process takes place.

    Remember, the bullying accusation is only an allegation at this stage and the investigation process has to be fair to both parties. You must be advised of the allegations and have all the information that your employer will rely on in making a decision, and you have the right to be heard, just as your accuser does.

    Ask for a copy of your employer’s bullying policy, so that you understand the process they will follow. If there isn’t one, ask for terms of reference for the process. It is also a good idea to have a support person present at all meetings. Avoid discussing the complaint with co-workers and decision-makers, and do not engage with your accuser.

    If you feel that the investigator may be biased, put your concerns in writing. If you continue to feel that the process is biased, then you should seek independent advice.

    Finally, remember that the investigation process can take some time and that it is justifiable to feel stressed. If you feel unwell, seek support early.

  • I’m looking for a new position, but I have already booked a four-week overseas trip later in the year. When do I bring this up with interviewers and recruiters?

    Recruitment expert Megan Alexander CA says:

    Clear communication is key when navigating the job application process, which includes promptly informing recruiters and interviewers about any planned trips. By addressing upcoming travel plans at the earliest opportunity, you demonstrate a commitment to transparency and respect for the recruitment process. This up-front communication allows both parties to manage expectations and plan accordingly, ensuring a smooth and efficient interview process.

    Timely disclosure of planned trips is essential for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it reflects positively on your professionalism and showcases your ability to proactively manage potential scheduling conflicts. It also enables recruiters to make necessary adjustments to the interview time line, ensuring that both parties can engage in the hiring process without unnecessary complications.

    Importantly, bringing up planned trips does not negatively impact your chances of securing a job. Most employers appreciate candidates who are up-front about potential scheduling constraints, as it demonstrates a proactive approach to problem-solving and a commitment to maintaining clear and honest dialogue throughout the hiring process.

    Ultimately, being transparent about your plans allows everyone to make informed decisions and facilitates a smoother interview process for the hiring managers and for you.

The experts

Megan Alexander CA is managing director of recruitment company Robert Half New Zealand.

Sharon McDonald is a human resources consultant and founder of McDonald HR in New Zealand.

Disclaimer: The answers provided in this column are not intended to be legal or industrial advice. People should seek professional advice specific to their own situation, if required.

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