Gaslighting at Work – How to Recognize and Address It

Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that can occur in various settings, including at work. It is often hard to recognize, yet it can have a profound effect on individuals’ mental health and overall job performance. Therefore, it is vital to be aware of the signs of gaslighting in the workplace and know how to address it if it occurs.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation that is designed to make an individual doubt their own perceptions, memories, and sanity. This technique is often used by abusers to gain control over their targets, making it harder for them to fight back or leave the relationship.

The term “gaslighting” originated from a 1944 movie called Gaslight. The movie tells the story of a husband who manipulates his wife by changing their surroundings’ lighting, making her believe she’s going insane. Nowadays, the term refers to various tactics used to make someone question their reality, including denial, contradiction, trivialization, and blame-shifting.

What are the Signs of Gaslighting at Work?

Gaslighting behaviors can occur in various forms, and they’re not always easy to spot. However, some red flags that someone may be gaslighting you include the following:

  • Consistently undermining your confidence in your own memory or judgment
  • Denying facts or occurrences that you know to be true
  • Changing information or important details consistently
  • Making you feel like you’re “crazy” or “wrong” even when you know you are correct
  • Refusing to take responsibility for their own mistakes and instead blaming you
  • Withholding information that would make it easier to complete your job duties
  • Publicly criticizing or belittling you or your work in a way that feels unjustified
  • Creating a hostile or unwelcoming environment that makes it difficult for you to perform your job duties

If you’ve experienced any of these behaviors in a workplace setting, there’s a high chance that you’re being gaslighted. The longer it continues, the more difficult it is to address the problem. Therefore, it’s essential to recognize and address it as soon as possible.

gaslighting at work

How to Address Gaslighting in the Workplace

If you suspect that you are experiencing gaslighting at work or you witness a co-worker or employee undergoing the same, here’s how you can address the situation:

Document Everything

When it comes to dealing with gaslighting at work, keeping a record of all instances is vital. This means documenting everything that occurs that makes you suspect you might be experiencing gaslighting.

The record should include dates and times of the gaslighting episodes, what was said or done, who was involved, where it occurred, and the impact it had on you or others. For instance, if you’ve been criticized unfairly, document the exact words the person used, and how it made you feel. Ensure that you do not include any personal opinions, judgments, or speculations in the documentation as they can weaken credibility.

One reason why documentation is crucial is that it helps you remember the details of the event accurately. With time, it can be easy to forget details or mix up events, and documentation provides a way to review the events with clarity. Additionally, it ensures that you have detailed and objective evidence to support your claims when you talk to someone.

The documented evidence can be important in various ways. For example, if you decide to report the gaslighting behavior to Human Resources staff or supervisors, providing concrete examples of the unwelcome behavior can be persuasive in getting them to act on the matter. Having documentation is strong evidence that the behavior is happening and can help them address it more effectively.

Moreover, documentation can be useful later should you decide to take legal action. If the gaslighting is severe, excessive, or particularly damaging, you may wish to pursue legal action. In such cases, it can be important to have documentation to illustrate the gaslighting behaviour and the impact it had on you.

Talk to Someone

Having a support system is essential when dealing with gaslighting at work. It’s crucial to discuss the issue with someone you trust, such as a co-worker, friend, or family member. This person can provide fresh perspectives and feedback, reassure you that the gaslighting behaviour is not your fault, and help you develop an action plan.

Talking to someone can help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that comes with experiencing gaslighting behaviour at work. A trusted co-worker can offer an objective witness to the behaviour, which can be a validation of what you’re experiencing. Moreover, discussing with someone outside the situation will provide an unbiased perspective and uniquely insightful feedback.

Seeking the perspective of a mental health professional can also be helpful in navigating the impact of gaslighting at work. A therapist can provide additional support while helping you develop the coping skills necessary to deal with a difficult work environment. They can also help you create an action plan to address the situation, which could include specific steps to speak with a superior or Human Resource staff.

gaslighting at work

Confront the Gaslighter

Confronting a person who gaslights you can be a difficult and emotionally taxing experience, but it can also be an effective way to stop the behaviour. If you decide to confront the person, it’s essential to take some steps to prepare, so it is more likely to go well. With preparation, you may even find confronting the person empowering.

First, gather evidence and documentation of the gaslighting behaviour, including specific details, such as what was said and when it was said. This documentation will provide examples to help you convey the message to the person you are confronting.

Another crucial aspect is to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the confrontation. Remember, it’s okay to feel scared or anxious, but it’s also important to be confident and assertive when speaking. Try to stay calm and diplomatic in your approach, and keep a clear and non-confrontational tone when bringing up the gaslighting behaviour. Communicate the impact of their actions, while avoiding accusations or judgment, which could escalate the situation.

Follow Company Policies

Most companies have policies in place to address workplace bullying and other forms of harassment, such as gaslighting. It is critical to follow policy guidelines by reporting the gaslighting behavior to your supervisor or Human Resources staff. You can do this either in person or in writing.

When you decide to report the issue, try to provide as much detail and evidence as possible, so your complaint will be taken seriously and addressed swiftly. Remember to be clear about what you want done about it and provide any information that may help solve the situation.

It’s essential for a company to take your complaint seriously and treat it with care since failing to do so could result in potential legal ramifications for them. Companies should aim to resolve situations related to bullying or harassment, including those involving gaslighting, as soon as possible, through appropriate disciplinary action when deemed necessary.

Take Time to Recharge

Engaging in self-care strategies to protect and preserve your well-being should not be overlooked when it comes to tackling a difficult situation, such as experiencing gaslighting. Taking the time for yourself to recuperate is essential in order to feel empowered and re-energized enough to take on the situation at hand. Some excellent ideas for self-care include meditating, exercising, and taking time off work if possible.

Meditation can help clear the mind, reduce stress levels, improve productivity, and sharpen focus. Exercise can also promote mental health by releasing hormones that reduce stress and combat depression.

Final Thoughts about Gaslighting at Work

In conclusion, recognizing and addressing gaslighting in the workplace is essential for a healthy work environment. By taking proactive measures to address gaslighting, individuals can safeguard their emotional and mental well-being and improve relationships and job performance. It is the responsibility of employers to prioritize creating a positive work environment for every employee and taking action when necessary to resolve the problem of gaslighting.

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