Everyone has heard about gaslighting in relationships but did you know that it can also happen in the workplace? It is actually quite common and most of the time when it happens, you don't even realise it's happening because you don't expect it to happen at work.
What is gaslighting?
In case you don't know what gaslighting is, it is when a person manipulates another person to control them by making them question what they think is real and even doubt their own instincts. It is toxic and destructive behaviour that makes the victim feel weak and powerless.
For example, you say "Wow, the sea is so blue!" when you notice the colour of the seawater is so blue. Someone who wants to gaslight you would say "What? No, it's not! Are you crazy?" That makes you wonder if the water is really blue or if you're just imagining things and that is you questioning your reality! You're being gaslighted and if this goes on, you'll start thinking you're crazy!
When it happens at the workplace, a co-worker or a manager would start contradicting what you know to be true, which forces you to start questioning yourself and your ability to do your job. You'll start feeling confused and doubting yourself which makes you weak and eventually keeps you away from success.
So, if you feel like maybe you're being gaslighted at work, you're not crazy, it could actually be happening and here are some of the signs to look out for:
#1 They tell obvious lies
For example, they say that they didn't receive your email even though you are staring at the very same email in your sent folder but they keep saying they didn't get it. Or, they approve your work on Monday and Tuesday when you submit the completed copy they say that they didn't approve it.
In situations like this, they insist that they are right even though you know they aren't which could make you feel crazy, confused and you might even start blaming yourself thinking maybe you didn't listen to their instructions properly or maybe there's some kind of problem with your computer. That is exactly what they want, when you're confused, you're weak and they can control you.
#2 They keep invalidating or challenging your opinions
This happens when you bring up an opinion during a meeting and they laugh at it and tell you how stupid or illogical your opinion is in front of everyone else. It makes you feel embarrassed and the next time there's a meeting you feel scared to share your opinion so you stay silent. But, when you stay silent, they then embarrass you for not speaking up and sharing your thoughts.
You constantly feel like everything you say or do is wrong and you can never get anything right. They make you lose your self-confidence and lowers your self-esteem which makes you more vulnerable and easy for them to control.
#3 They always say they are taking action on something you requested
When you asked your boss for a pay raise and they promised you that you'll be getting it at the end of the year but the end of the year has come and gone but you still haven't got your raise. So you ask them about it and they respond with a simple "I'm working on it". You'll start to notice that this is their standard response for everything.
They give you hope with empty promises and keep telling you that they're working on it to keep you hanging on and working harder than you're supposed to, thinking that it will help them work on their promise faster.
#4 They treat you well just when you're about to break
After things get too much for you and you're at the point of breaking, you're thinking of just quitting or giving up the gaslighter suddenly treats you so well. They are praising you for your work, thanking you for your suggestions and even giving you positive feedback in front of your other co-workers.
At this point, you'll start questioning yourself again, wondering if they've really been treating you badly or if you're just misunderstanding their actions. Were they really mean or were you just imagining things?
#5 If you stand up for yourself, they verbally attack you
If you start noticing the toxic behaviour and decide to stand up for yourself by calling out the gaslighter's behaviour, they lash out at you and say that you're overreacting or being irrational. They are dismissing your emotions and pretending like they aren't responsible for their own behaviour.
So, you feel like maybe it's your fault. They make you question your own emotions and feel crazy for trying to stand up for yourself so that in the future, you'll let their behaviour slide.
What To Do If You're Being Gaslighted At Work
If you are experiencing these signs at work then you need to realise that you are in a toxic and destructive work environment and you need to do what's best for yourself before your mental health is affected. Here are some of the things you can do to deal with a gaslighter at work:
+ Keep a record of everything: Take screenshots, record conversations and take notes of everything they say.
+ Talk to your co-workers: Talk to some of your co-workers that you can trust and find out if they are experiencing the same thing you are. That way, you can approach HR as a group and they are more likely to take things seriously.
+ Being your documentation to HR: Once you've got enough proof, go to HR and list out all the gaslighting behaviour that you're experiencing with examples from the records that you've kept. Tell them how it has affected your mental and emotional health and also your productivity.
Have you managed to deal with a gaslighter at work? Share your experience in the comments section, you may be able to help someone who is going through the same problem as you.