Gaslighting is the psychological manipulation to make an employee believe they or their work is inferior. This involves the gaslighter misleading, lying and demeaning the target. By its nature, it is hard to detect gaslighting when it occurs in the workplace. Understanding the signs of gaslighting at work and successful ways to deal with gaslighting is important.
What Are Signs of Gaslighting at Work?
Gaslighting can come from a boss, coworker or any other member of the company. Generally, gaslighting involves making the target feel guilty, crazy or inadequate. There are several reasons a gaslighter may display this behavior. Notably, they may feel as if their target is a threat to their role or reputation, they are incompetent at their role and do so unintentionally or they have a prejudice towards the target, among other possible reasons.
The Gaslighter Frequently Lies About or Denies Making Promises
One common tactic gaslighter’s use is to tell their target something important and then deny they ever made the promise. For example, a company executive may tell an employee that they do not have to work on the weekend. When the employee does not show up, the employer pretends they never told the employee that. This is often intentionally done to make the employee look bad, although it could be due to negligence on behalf of the gaslighter as well. In any case, a consistent pattern of broken promises is a serious concern.
The Gaslighter Overreacts to Criticism and Deflects Responsibility
A gaslighter may also overreact when addressed with any criticism. For example, if a coworker misses a deadline, they may make an excuse as to why in a manner that makes the other coworker feel guilty for raising the criticism. In other instances, the gaslighter may direct responsibility entirely. For example, they may tell their coworker that they were responsible for finishing the portion of the assignment that is incomplete. In both examples, this leads to the target feeling insecure or as if they are crazy for not remembering the events the same way as the gaslighter.
The Gaslighter Balances Stress and Criticism With Compliments
Gaslighting is subtle. If the gaslighter only used criticism and insults, then it would be obvious to the target. Gaslighters often balance the criticism and stress they place upon their targets with compliments. For example, a boss may set a deadline two weeks away and give instructions for the assignment. When the employee turns in the assignment within two weeks, the boss may complement some parts of the work but state that the instructions were not followed and the assignment is late, despite this not being true.
How to Effectively Handle Gaslighting in The Workplace
If you are a victim of gaslighting, then you have options available to deal with the concern. Once you recognize that you are the victim of gaslighting, you should work to regain your trust in your intuition, identify patterns of the gaslighting behavior, document the behavior and notify someone you trust in a position of power (i.e., an HR representative). In some instances, it may be helpful to confront the gaslighter directly. In any case, learn how to deal with gaslighting at work.
Regain Trust Over Your Intuition
The first step of overcoming gaslighting is to regain trust in your perception of the situation. In other words, if you feel you are being gaslighted, then recognize that the issue is not with yourself but instead with the gaslighter.
Identify Patterns in The Gaslighting Person’s Behavior
You should then identify the ways in which you are being gaslighted. Anytime you are being confused, misled or demeaned, it is a sign that you are being gaslighted.
Document Situations as They Occur
It is important to document all gaslighting behavioral patterns and situations. This should serve as evidence when you present your case to an HR professional or company executive.
Get Advice From a Trusted Person
Friends and family are a great source of advice when you feel you are being gaslighted. If your company does not have an internal human resources department that you can trust, then you should also confide in a third-party HR consultant that can help you handle the situation appropriately.
Confront The Gaslighting Person Directly
It may also be helpful to confront the gaslighter directly, particularly if the target feels as if the gaslighting is done unintentionally. However, this may not always work and could exacerbate the situation. If confronting the gaslighter directly does not work, then it is important to consult with an HR professional or trusted company executive.
Receive Assistance From an Independent HR Consultant Today
Reach out to our human resource team today to learn more about how to deal with gaslighting at work. We take pride in helping companies achieve a healthy and productive work environment that is free from gaslighting and other unhealthy workplace practices.