Incandescence (Part I)

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I was busy organizing my event that I found myself working 12hour shifts each day. By Friday I was exhausted so when Jacob popped into my office unannounced, I was caught by surprise.

On seeing Jacob, Bradley popped in to say hello. Considering I hadn’t spoken to Bradley since he took my box of Donuts, I found it strange that he gravitated towards Jacob.

‘Shall we do lunch?’ Bradley asked. Before I could answer I looked up to see Mandy sitting at her desk crying. Both Bradley and Jacob followed my gaze ‘You two go ahead, I’ll be a few minutes behind you’ I stated.

I made it look like I was leaving with them, but went straight to the ladies bathroom; hoping Mandy would make her way into the bathroom to tidy herself up. I waited for almost 10minutes before the bathroom door finally opened.

‘Mandy’ I whispered, ‘what happened?’

‘I can’t talk about it’ Mandy stated, clearly destressed.

‘Why have you been told not to talk to me? You do realise I’m the one person that can help you right?’ and with that I quickly slipped her a note with my personal mobile phone number, before giving her a reassuring hug. I then casually walked out of the ladies to join Bradley and Jacob for lunch.

The waitress arrived at the table with two Espresso’s and a Latte. ‘Thanks’ I said as I sat down.

‘What was that about?’ Bradley asked but I just shrugged and said “I wish I knew, then I could understand why that department keeps losing staff’.

Not wanting to elaborate further I turned to Jacob and said ‘So what brings you here today?’

‘I invited him’ Bradley replied. And with that, I took a sip of my latte.

‘You OK Tori, you look troubled’ Jacob asked with a concerned look on his face.

‘Bradley, what do you know about Jackson’? I asked, not answering Jacob's question.

‘You’re sitting here with possilbly the two most eligible bachelors in town, yet you’re asking about some other guy, really Babe!’ Jacob teasingly piped in.

‘Firstly, I’m not your Babe, and secondly, trust me, it’s nothing like that’ I said while looking at Bradley, hoping I’d get some answers.

‘There's not much to tell. He’s been with us for over 5years, and he’s worked his way up to the role of Chief Financial Officer. And Jacob, you needn’t worry’ he added with a smirk ‘Jackson’s engaged to be married in a several months’ time.’

‘Right’ I said, taking in my newly acquired information. ‘So, what’s everyone ordering’? Just as I asked my phone buzzed

‘Facebook Request Accepted Emily Atkins’ – finally a breakthrough I thought to myself with a smile.

Lunch went by smoothly. No dramas, accusations or outbursts. After lunch I politely left Bradley and Jacob in the Café, only this time when I said goodbye I told them to stay away from my house. With that I quickly rushed back to the office and messaged Emily Atkins.

‘Thank you so much for accepting my friend request. I hope you don’t mind my reaching out, but I’m handling Staff Retention at BL Corp and I’d really like to ask you a few questions. I tried calling you, but the mobile number we have on file is no longer connected and the email address you supplied is also not available. I’m happy to call, message or meet with you in person. Look forward chatting.’

I put my phone down and made my way down the list of ex-Accounting personnel and sent friend requests to everyone on the list. At the moment, Facebook Messenger was the only option I had as I’d hit brick walls with phone numbers and email addresses.

Understandably, only a few people accepted by friend request, but they each received the same message I’d sent Emily. Now I had to wait patiently in the hope someone would actually reply and tell me what was happening.

Having worked a long week, I left the office at 5:00pm and made my way home. Tonight I was going to enjoy a microwave dinner and a glass or two of wine. I couldn’t wait to get home and throw on my pyjamas. Just as I turned on a movie my phone beeped, it was a message from Emily Atkins.

‘Hi Tori, thanks for reaching out. Where do you want me to start?’

‘Hi Emily, if you wouldn’t mind starting from the beginning. Thanks!’

A few minutes passed and before Emily’s message came through

‘Well I worked there for just over 6 months. At first everything was great, but then I was asked to change my workhours. Jackson needed me in the office early each day. I complied but what I didn’t expect was the advances he was making. He made my workday so uncomfortable. Each time I’d decline Jackson’s advances work would get worse. He’d shuffle my hours around, touch me when no one was looking, and when I’d ask him to stop, he would threaten me and tell me that he’d make my life hell and that he would ensure no other company in town would want to employ me. This torment went on for 4-months before I finally had enough and resigned. After I resigned the calls and emails didn’t stop. He harassed me for weeks, sending me explicit photos and tried to arrange secret rendezvous. In the end, the harassment was just too much, I changed my phone number and moved to another State.’

‘Emily, I’m so sorry to hear you went through this. Would you know if anyone else experienced this behavior? Did you discuss Jackson’s behavior with the Directors or another Senior Manager? So sorry to bring this up and ask all these questions; but it’s something I really need to investigate and address’ came my reply.

‘From what I heard; I wasn’t alone. But everyone was too afraid to discuss it. Jackson watches everyone, he knows who’s speaking with who and he intimidates them until he has full control. You sound like someone that really cares. My advice to you is to be careful; he’s dangerous’ Emily's response seemed sincere and in line with some of my suspicions.

‘Thank you so much for your advice and concern. I will keep it on board. Would you mind if we stay connected so that I can contact you in the future if need be?’

‘No worries!’ she replied

‘Thanks and have a lovely weekend’ I didn't want to take up any more of Emily's time, and promptly ended the chat.

This new information was not what I had expected. Yes, Jackson had tried making advances on me, but he didn’t seem like a serial womanizer. I had a preconceived idea of how a womanizer behaved and our Chief Financial Officer just didn’t fit the bill. And from what Bradley said, Jackson was a hard-worker who was driven and worked his way to the top. Work aside, Jackson was also engaged to be married – his behavior didn’t make sense.

I had to determine if these allegations were in fact true or whether Emily had ulterior motives? I needed to investigate these allegations properly as I couldn’t afford to wrongly incriminated someone that was hardworking and about to get married.

Before I could let my mind run wild with different scenarios, there was another beep on my phone, followed by another. Next thing I knew I was having six different chats, all with ex-employees, all sharing a very similar tale. Some girls experienced harassment, others he threatened and there was one that Jackson took full sexual advantage of.

I recalled how Bradley had propositioned me on my second day at BL Corp. As a HR professional I had the confidence to promptly shut-down his advances, but these poor ladies had no chance; he deliberately sought them out and took advantage of them. I couldn’t believe the degree of his predatory behavior. His poor finance, I couldn’t help but wonder how she would feel when confronted by his true self.

All these messages made me worry about Mandy who was visibly distraught earlier that day. At that moment I knew exactly what I needed to do and I was going to use the Staff Retention Event to call Jackson out in front of the Directors.

I looked at my clock and realized it was past midnight; I had been messaging these poor women all night. So much for knocking off work early. I switched my phone to silent and went to bed.

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