Gaslighting in the Workplace: How to Spot It and What to Do About It

Gaslighting in the Workplace: How to Spot It and What to Do About It

( – Gaslighting, which is a form of psychological manipulation that can have people questioning their sanity, is usually thought of in the context of romantic relationships. One common instance is when one partner tries to convince the other partner that they’re crazy for thinking the first partner is cheating. But gaslighting happens in workplaces, too. The signs of gaslighting in the workplace can be subtle, but they’re important to take note of to have healthy workplaces and proper boundaries for employees.

Spotting Gaslighting in the Workplace

In the workplace, people who gaslight can include managers, coworkers, customers and competitors. There may also be an overarching feeling of institutional bias. Gaslighters usually target individuals, but they can target groups, as well.

Gaslighting is often part of a toxic work culture, where the mistreatment of an employee or group of employees persists, despite quality performance levels by those employees and a lack of facts or evidence that they “deserve” the negative treatment. This treatment is usually denied by the gaslighter, and an effort is made to avoid the discussion or become defensive with the accuser.

Here are some signs of gaslighting in the workplace:

1. Gaslighters Have a Negative Narrative

When a person’s being gaslit, they get a constant stream of negativity from the gaslighter. Their product or service, the credibility they have, and their work performance can all come under attack. Without facts, the negativity is usually from personal judgment.

2. Gaslighters Persist in Negative Gossip

Gossiping should have ended in high school, but for a gaslighter in the workplace, it’s an everyday occurrence. Whether it’s personal or professional characteristics that are being attacked, someone who’s being gaslit is often the subject of gossip.

3. Gaslighting Comes With Negative Publicity

Falsehoods, exaggerated reviews, and smear campaigns are all the marks of a workplace gaslighter. They do their best in face-to-face and online interactions to make the person being gaslit look bad in their professional life — and it often works.

4. In Gaslighting, Hostility May be Expressed as “Humor”

“It’s just a joke” might be one of the most common phrases that a lot of gaslighters use on their victims. They can say just about any sarcastic or cruel thing and cover it with the idea that they were just kidding around. But don’t fall for it. It’s still gaslighting, and they know exactly what they’re doing.

5. Professional Exclusion is One Mark of Gaslighting

It can hurt to be excluded, and when it happens in the workplace, it can also make it harder to advance a career. Professional development, networking, promotions, and other career opportunities can all slow to a crawl or even stop when gaslighting is present.

6. Bullying is a Way of Life for the Gaslighter

While bullying should never be tolerated in the workplace, it’s still a very common experience for many people. Gaslighters often bully their victims and then act innocent when they’re called on their behavior.

7. Verifiable, Inequitable Treatment Often Happens in Gaslighting

Being ignored for advancement, or being treated as though they’re in the wrong even when they’re doing everything right, commonly happens to gaslight victims. Their treatment can be verified as unequal, but the gaslighter will often try to make it appear as though the victim is still undeserving in some way.

How to Stop Workplace Gaslighting

Stopping workplace gaslighting is important, but it’s not always easy. Fortunately, there are some specific things you can do. These include:

  • Educate yourself on gaslighting behaviors.
  • Get outside advice if you feel you’re being gaslit.
  • Document everything, to have proof and a written record.
  • Use your intuition — it’s there for a reason.
  • Talk to Human Resources or a higher up about your concerns, if possible.
  • Expect a struggle, and understand that you may have to leave.

Gaslighting victims who take these steps can sometimes resolve the issue without needing to leave their workplace. But in some cases, moving to a different job where the work culture is less toxic may be the only reasonable choice. By seeing the signs of gaslighting early, and being prepared to take action when necessary, a gaslighting victim can remain in control of their fate.

Remember, gaslighting isn’t your fault and you don’t have to just live with it in the workplace. You’re worth more than that and deserve better from your place of employment. If you see all the signs that you’re being gaslit, you are being gaslit. You’re not crazy, and there’s no need to second-guess yourself. When you understand gaslighting and take action, you hang onto your power instead of giving it away to the gaslighter.

~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!

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