Do You Have A ‘Gaslighter’ At Work?

Gaslighting is a relatively new term used to describe someone who manipulates another person by psychological means to make them doubt their own perspective of reality.

Unlike bullying, which is very clear and obvious, gaslighting is a very subtle form of manipulation which can:

  • destroy a victim’s confidence
  • leave them feeling extremely vulnerable
  • force them to quit their jobs

In many cases it can be so subtle that some people may not even know it’s happening until they stop and think about it, which is perhaps why it happens so frequently.

Little things like:

  • claiming credit for your work
  • teasing you in front of colleagues
  • setting unrealistic deadlines
  • purposely withholding information from you for a big assignment

The above are all signs of gaslighting in the workplace. While these may occur as unintentional isolated incidents, but when they take place repeatedly they can make you start to question your self-worth and ability.

The workplace provides a fertile ground for gaslighting due to the natural hierarchical structures that exist.  Many managers simply don’t possess the skills required to identify and handle instances of gaslighting because they typically receive no training for this.

Organisations can better prepare and respond if they suspect gaslighting is happening in their workplace by:

1. Training managers – Managers need to understand that gaslighting is a serious issue. If managers don’t know what it is, then it will continue to happen under their noses.

Training managers on spotting the common signs of gaslighting is key –

  • gaslighters won’t think twice about twisting the truth so they look credible
  • will often make disparaging remarks about others
  • may purposely not invite colleagues on social events
  • poke fun of colleagues in front of others

Victims will often feel withdrawn and isolated so aren’t always easy to identify.

2. Introduce a policy – formulating a policy and sharing it with employees will help them to understand what gaslighting is and shows that as an employer you take their wellbeing seriously.

Any policy should include common signs so they can identify if it’s happening to them and a complaints procedure.

3. Listen to victims – providing victims with a platform to raise their concerns will encourage them to talk in strictest confidence. A good way to help victims deal with gaslighting is to encourage them to make notes when instances occur. A log will provide them with re-assurance that they’re not imagining things and will help provide a robust case to the present to the perpetrator.

4. Schedule a one-to-one with the gaslighter – After reviewing the evidence take the time out to speak to the accused gaslighter and raise the issue with them. Try to stay positive and remind them of the benefits of establishing good working relationships, rather than confronting them in an aggressive tone.

5. Don’t ignore it – gaslighting is very easy to brush off simply as office politics but it can really impact a victim’s self-confidence which can also hinder their productivity. The only way to stop it is to take action!


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