Breaking Free From Gaslighting at the Workplace‍

Have you ever encountered a form of manipulation that can happen in any kind of relationship, including at work?

It occurs when a colleague or boss (the gaslighter) manipulates you to the point that you question your own sanity, memory, or perceptions. For example, the gaslighter may deny past events, downplay your emotions, or retell events in a way that puts the blame on you.

If you have ever been called “too sensitive” or “crazy” at work, or had your recollection of events questioned, you may have experienced gaslighting

Common examples of gaslighting in the workplace include a boss who dismisses your concerns as hypersensitivity or questions your memory of events.

Gaslighting in the workplace can be just as damaging as it is in any other relationship. It is important to recognize the signs and take action to protect yourself. 

In this blog, we will explore ways to identify and address gaslighting in the workplace.

Let’s start with

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that occurs in the workplace and is characterized by a person or group of people making another person doubt their own sanity, memory, or perception of events.

Identify Gaslighting at Workplace

It is a subtle and insidious form of manipulation that can have serious consequences for the victim's mental health and well-being, as well as their professional reputation and career prospects.

From where did the term ‘Gaslighting’ originate?

Gaslighting is a term that originated from a 1938 stage play called "Gas Light" in which a husband manipulates his wife into believing she is losing her mind. In the workplace, gaslighting can take many forms and can be done by a boss, coworker, or even a group of people. It can happen to anyone and is not limited to any specific age, gender, or occupation.

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How does it affect someone mentally?

One of the most significant consequences of gaslighting is the damage it can cause to a person's mental health. Gaslighting victims often experience confusion, self-doubt, and even depression. They may also experience anxiety, stress, and a sense of isolation. Over time, the constant manipulation can lead to a loss of self-esteem and self-worth, making it difficult for the victim to trust their own judgment or to speak up for themselves.

Gaslighting is particularly damaging in the workplace as it can harm a person's professional reputation and career prospects. Victims may struggle to complete tasks, face disciplinary action, or even lose their job. It can also lead to a lack of motivation and a lack of confidence in one's abilities, which can further impact job performance.

Subtle signs of someone Gaslighting you at work

Not always your boss or colleague confronting - is gaslighting you. Several factors result in gaslighting. If it happens, it is inevitable. But you can spot some signs like-

  • Questioning your memory or perception of events
  • Telling you that you're imagining things or being paranoid
  • Manipulating evidence or information to support their own version of events
  • Denying that certain events or conversations ever took place
  • Blaming you for things that are not your fault
  • Isolating you from others and limiting your access to information

You can consider such instances as subtle signs of you being a gaslighting victim. There are a few more things to make you aware like you can come across some gaslighting phrases, such as: 

  • "You're overreacting."
  • "I never said that."
  • "You're just imagining things."
  • "I'm only trying to help you."
  • "You're too sensitive."
  • "You're not good enough"

If such signs are seen around you, there is time to get a head start now.

Ways to counter Gaslighting instances

If you suspect that you are being gaslighted at work, it's important to take steps to counter these instances.

Counter Gaslighting at Workplace

Some strategies include:

Keep everything documented 

To effectively communicate with a gaslighter, it is important to document everything through email or other written means. This provides concrete evidence to refute any false claims or doubts about your memory and can also serve as proof when seeking assistance from HR.

Ask others for a feedback

When dealing with a gaslighter, it is crucial to seek feedback from a trustworthy, unbiased source. This may be challenging, especially in a toxic work environment. To validate your perception of events, consider asking someone else to review any work the gaslighter claims to have flaws in, confirm your inclusion in important meetings, or verify any public criticism made by the gaslighter in your absence.

Never directly confront the gaslighter

Confronting a gaslighter may not be the most effective approach, as they are unlikely to admit to their behavior. Instead, consider disengaging and focusing on preserving your own perception of reality. As therapist Alyssa Mancao advises, "The best way to outsmart a gaslighter is to disengage. You can show up to the discussion with a mountain of evidence, videos, recordings, and more, and a gaslighting person will still find a way to deflect, minimize, or deny. It is more worth it to walk away with your perception intact".

Approach HR first

If you are being gaslighted at work, it is best to bring the issue to HR or management for resolution. They can act as neutral third-party and are equipped to handle such situations. Make sure to bring any evidence you have collected to support your case. It's important to note that if your manager is the gaslighter, then it is best to approach HR or a higher level of management.

Approach to HR

Avoid any discussions with the gaslighter

As much as possible, try to avoid interacting with the person who is gaslighting you. This may be difficult if the gaslighter is your manager, but it is important to limit one-on-one interactions with them. If you must meet with them, make sure to have a reliable witness present. Avoid taking on projects that require collaboration with the gaslighter and do not engage in personal relationships with them. This will help to limit the gaslighters ability to manipulate you.

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Look after your personal records

Gaslighting can undermine your confidence and make you doubt your own abilities and sanity. It can leave you feeling powerless and incompetent. It is important to remember that you are efficient enough and you can stand up to a gaslighter.

You can look after your personal records by using productivity monitoring software like We360.ai. It can help you provide proof of work and your productivity records can help you justify it at any cost. 

Ignore it if you can

If possible, consider leaving a toxic work environment where gaslighting occurs. This type of behavior is often indicative of a broader culture of toxicity that can have detrimental effects on your well-being. It may be best to move on to a workplace that prioritizes your mental and emotional health.

End Gaslighting at a workplace

It's important to remember that gaslighting is a form of abuse and it's not your fault. You have the right to feel safe and respected in your workplace. If you feel like you're being gaslighted, don't be afraid to speak up and seek help.

End Gaslighting at a workplace

It's also important to note that gaslighting is not always intentional. Some people may not be aware that their behavior is harmful, and in these cases, it's essential to have an open and honest conversation with them about how their behavior is affecting you.

However, sometimes gaslighting can be a tactic used by people in positions of power to maintain control over their subordinates. In such cases, it's important to be aware of the power dynamics and use the tips provided above to protect yourself. This may include seeking support from others, building a support system, and setting boundaries.

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