Gaslighting is a manipulative technique used by individuals to make others question their own perceptions and memories. While it is commonly associated with personal relationships, gaslighting can also occur in the workplace. This article will examine the signs of gaslighting in a professional setting, its impact on employees, and steps that can be taken to address this harmful behavior.
Definition of gaslighting
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that involves making someone doubt their own memories, perceptions, or sanity. It often involves the manipulator denying that events took place, twisting the truth, or making the victim believe they’re misremembering things. In the workplace, gaslighting can occur when a coworker, manager, or boss tries to make an employee question their own experiences or abilities.
Example: A boss repeatedly denies promising an employee a promotion, despite evidence to the contrary, causing the employee to doubt their own memory and perception of the situation.
Impact on victims
Gaslighting can have serious consequences for victims, including anxiety, depression, decreased confidence, and a loss of self-esteem. In the workplace, gaslighting can make it difficult for employees to perform their jobs effectively and can lead to burnout or even resignation. It can also create a hostile work environment and increase stress levels.
Example: An employee who was consistently gaslit by their boss began to feel insecure and anxious about their job performance, leading to decreased confidence and poor job performance.
Impact on the company
Experts in management also highlight that gaslighting in the workplace can create a toxic work environment. When employees are made to question their own perceptions and memories, it can create distrust among coworkers and reduce morale. This, in turn, can lead to high turnover rates and difficulties in attracting new talent.
In addition, gaslighting can negatively impact an organization’s bottom line. When employees are in a state of confusion and uncertainty, they are less likely to make effective decisions, leading to mistakes and decreased efficiency. Moreover, a toxic work environment can negatively impact a company’s reputation, making it harder to attract customers and partners.
Example: A well-known tech company is experiencing a high rate of employee turnover due to the gaslighting tactics used by one of its managers. The manager constantly belittles and undermines his team members, causing them to question their own abilities and decisions. This leads to a decrease in morale, as well as a lack of trust and collaboration among the team. In turn, the team’s productivity and efficiency suffer, leading to missed deadlines and mistakes that harm the company’s reputation in the industry. The company’s human resources department tries to address the issue, but the manager’s behavior continues. As a result, the company’s turnover rate continues to rise and it becomes increasingly difficult to attract and retain top talent in a competitive job market.
Tactics used in gaslighting
Gaslighting in the workplace often involves the manipulator using a variety of tactics to undermine their victim. This can include denying events, playing dumb, projecting blame, and manipulating information. For example, a gaslighter may deny promising a raise, or blame the victim for misinterpreting the situation.
Example: A coworker repeatedly denies making negative comments about a victim, even when there are witnesses present, causing the victim to doubt their own perceptions.
How to recognize gaslighting
It can be difficult to recognize gaslighting, as it often occurs gradually and can be subtle. Some red flags include the manipulator frequently denying events, twisting the truth, or playing dumb. The victim may also feel confused, anxious, or stressed, and may begin to doubt their own memories and perceptions.
Example: An employee consistently feels confused and anxious about their interactions with their boss, and begins to doubt their own memories of events, despite having evidence to support their perceptions.
Gaslighting in relation to concern trolling
In a workplace setting, gaslighting can be closely related to concern trolling. An individual or group may use false expressions of concern to control and manipulate their coworkers, or to discredit them and make them look bad.
Example: A coworker may pretend to be concerned about a particular project that you are working on, but in reality, they are using this as a cover to undermine your efforts and take credit for your work.
Ways to respond to gaslighting
If you suspect you are being gaslit in the workplace, it is important to take steps to protect yourself. You can take the following steps in response to gaslighting:
- Document the incidents: Keep a written record of instances of gaslighting, including the date, time, place, and details of what happened. This can serve as evidence if needed.
- Set boundaries: Clearly communicate your expectations and limits to the person engaging in gaslighting. Be firm and assertive in your response.
- Seek support: Talk to a trusted coworker, HR representative, or therapist about the situation. Having a support system can help you feel more confident in your response.
- Confront the behavior: Confront the person engaging in gaslighting about their behavior and its effects on you. Be clear and specific about the incidents and how they made you feel.
- Seek mediation: If the gaslighting is severe and impacting your work performance, consider seeking mediation or conflict resolution services through HR.
- Take care of yourself: It’s important to take care of yourself and protect your mental health. This may involve seeking therapy, taking breaks from the workplace, or seeking a new job if necessary.
Example: An employee, Sarah, has been working with her team for a year and feels like her ideas and opinions are constantly being dismissed and discredited by her manager, who she believes is gaslighting her. Sarah decides to follow the above steps to respond to the gaslighting.
First, she starts keeping a record of all the instances when her manager undermines her opinions and decisions. Then, she musters the courage to confront her manager and express her feelings about how the gaslighting is affecting her. She also seeks support from a trusted coworker and a therapist.
Next, Sarah sets clear boundaries and communicates her expectations to her manager that she will not tolerate gaslighting behavior. However, if the gaslighting continues, she considers seeking outside intervention from HR or her supervisor for mediation and resolution.