Gaslighting is more commonplace than you may realize. It is also incredibly damaging to the target, leading many to leave their employer or experience an unhealthy work environment. This is why it is important for companies to inform their employees of what gaslighting looks like and encourage them to speak up if they feel they experience or witness it in their workplace.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting involves the use of psychological manipulation to make someone doubt their own competency or sanity. This can occur in various avenues of life. The term comes from a 1938 play called “Gas Light.” In the play, a husband convinces his wife that she is crazy by making the gas lights in the house flicker and pretending he does not see it. Subsequently, the term was most notably used to describe an unhealthy dynamic in spousal relationships. However, the term is used in a broader sense in the modern-day, applying most notably to conflicts in workplace culture.
How is Gaslighting Different in The Workplace?
Gaslighting in the workplace is often less noticeable by the one being gaslighted. In addition, they often have less control over their situation, especially if the gaslighter is a boss or someone of a higher position within the company. While gaslighting in the workplace can occur to anyone, it affects underrepresented groups the most.
The gaslighter’s motivation is typically different in the workplace as well. Gaslighting in the workplace may occur as a way to gain more power and control, to reduce the risk of a perceived threat hurting their position or reputation within the company or the person may not realize they are gaslighting. In any case, it is important to identify gaslighting when it occurs and take the necessary action to ensure all employees can feel safe and comfortable in the workplace.
The Different Types of Gaslighting at Work
Gaslighting is by its very nature hard to recognize. Subsequently, it is important for all employees to know the different types of gaslighting so they recognize it when it occurs. The most common types of gaslighting are:
- Isolate the target from co-workers
- Withhold information or attention
- Discredit the target in the workplace
- Deceive or lie to the target
- Intimidate the target
- Make the target co-dependent
- Degrade or bully the target
- Quick to suspend or punish the target
If an employee is the victim of one or more of these immoral gaslighting tactics, then it is important to notify a supervisor or HR professional.
What Are The Impacts of Gaslighting on Employees?
Gaslighting is harmful to the one affected in many ways. Most notably, many employees lose the ability to make confident decisions, develop issues with self-esteem, feel less motivated and often are more apologetic than they should be due to feeling inadequate or less than qualified in their role.
Loss of Progression and Decision-Making
Many who are victims of gaslighting have their work dismissed by the gaslighter. For example, a boss may tell an employee to complete a certain assignment. Once they turn in the assignment, the boss may tell them they did not follow the directions, regardless of whether or not the assignment was completed correctly. This leads to a lack of progression, and the boss may use this as an excuse to take away responsibilities from the employee.
Lack of Self-Esteem or Motivation
Many victims of gaslighting also experience a lack of self-esteem, which is often the primary goal of gaslighting. In addition, victims often feel less motivated to work as well. This often occurs because the gaslighter consistently (and unfairly) criticizes or rejects the target’s work. They also intimidate or degrade their target so that they feel as if their work is less valuable. When this occurs, it not only affects the target but all employees. Subsequently, the business as a whole typically runs less efficiently and effectively as a result of gaslighting.
Frequent Questioning and Apologizing
Targets of gaslighting are typically ones that have a willingness to help others, take pride in their work, and take criticism of their work seriously. These are positive traits, of course, but it also leaves them vulnerable to gaslighting from coworkers and employers with improper motivations. This often leads to the one being gaslighted to question their work and consistently apologize for their “lack of performance.”
Dealing With Gaslighting at Work
The best way to deal with gaslighting is to notify an HR professional or a company executive that you can trust. They should be able to take action and correct the issue by either disciplining the gaslighter or making accommodations so the victim no longer has to work under the gaslighter’s supervision.
Speak With an Independent HR Consultant About Gaslighting
Do you feel as if you or someone within your company is a victim of gaslighting? If so, then contact HR Search and Rescue to speak with one of our HR consultants. We work with companies to help them achieve a healthy and productive work environment for all employees.