Gaslighting at work is an extremely difficult situation because many of us cannot simply walk away from our jobs.
What makes it even more frustrating is that others may not recognize or even believe that it’s happening – which can cause you to question your own experience.
Because gaslighting is so insidious and hard to discern, it’s important that you understand the signs of gaslighting at work and know how to handle it if it happens to you.
What is Gaslighting at Work?
Gaslighters will lie to your face and leave you questioning if you’re the one who’s in the wrong.
In the workplace, gaslighting can look like a boss who steals your idea and presents it as their own in a meeting. When you bring this up to them, they might say you’re being too sensitive or that they thought of it first.
The act of gaslighting relies on the gaslighter holding more power – which is why some gaslighters are allowed to thrive in the workplace. Employees don’t often feel comfortable giving feedback or reporting their managers and bosses to HR out of fear of retaliation.
The Most Common Signs of Gaslighting at Work
When you are being gaslit, it can make you question whether you’re seeing things the way they are or if you’re simply misinterpreting the situation.
For example, maybe your boss is not a gaslighter. Instead, they may just be a poor communicator, lack self-awareness, or an insensitive jerk.
So how can you separate gaslighting from bad workplace etiquette? Look for the signs below:
- Negative talk behind your back – A common sign that you are being gaslit is hearing negative rumors about you behind your back that are not based on fact. This may come from other coworkers or even the gaslighter themselves.
- Being excluded from meetings and other events – Gaslighters will do anything to hold the power in a relationship. That means they will exclude you from important workplace meetings or networking events and then blame you for your forgetfulness. They want to keep you away from creating allies in the workplace and cause you to question your own worth.
- You have caught your gaslighter in a lie – Gaslighters will lie to your face and deny it, even when you have proof. Catching a gaslighter in a lie actually doesn’t faze them. They will use this as an opportunity to turn it back around at you.
- When you confront them they lash out at you – Gaslighters tend to have narcissistic personalities. That means that when you confront them, they will get defensive and do anything to deny your reality.
How to Recognize if Your Boss is Gaslighting You
When you experience gaslighting in the workplace, you start to question your own interpretation of events. This makes it hard to validate your own experience and even harder to take action.
Your boss may be gaslighting you if they consistently put you down while highlighting their own superiority. Some common examples of gaslighting at work include:
Example #1: Your boss gives you praise on a project in private, but then bad mouths you to other managers and your colleagues when you’re not around.
Example #2: Your manager offers to help you out on a project to take some work off of your plate but later makes snarky comments, such as ‘I guess you can’t handle the demands of the job’ or ‘it’s unfair to expect others to pick up your slack.’
Example #3: Your manager openly criticizes you and your ideas in a meeting in front of your peers but later acts like nothing happened when you speak with them one-on-one.
Example #4: You complete a project to the expectations your manager laid out, but when you turn in your deliverable, your manager has changed their expectations completely and blamed you for not “following direction.”
Example #5: Your boss makes an inappropriate joke in the workplace and then says you’re too sensitive when you say that remark made you uncomfortable.
Dealing with Gaslighting in the Workplace
Once you’ve recognized that you are being gaslit, we recommend the following steps to help you navigate this situation in a way that protects your sanity.
- Document, document, document – Documenting your experience helps with two things. First off, it allows you to recall exactly what’s happening to you so you can look at it objectively. Secondly. documenting allows you to have proof that you are being gaslit. If your manager told you something and later denied it, you can call upon your documentation to refute their statements.
- Do what you can to create distance – Try your best to minimize contact with your gaslighter. They will use any opportunity to manipulate you, so creating distance is your best bet to avoid their tactics. Skip out on group lunches or water cooler talk in order to maintain your boundaries.
- Lean on your support network – Being gaslit is an isolating and belittling experience. Make sure you are taking care of yourself. Talk to friends or a therapist about what’s happening and keep your self grounded with your support network.
- Validate your own experience – It’s hard enough to be put down in the workplace. You don’t need to put yourself down too. Validate what is happening to you and don’t fall into the trap of self-doubt – that’s what your gaslighter wants you to do. Reaffirm your own worth and your own perception of events.
- Decide the best path forward – You have options when it comes to dealing with a gaslighter. Do you want to confront them directly? Report them to HR? Or simply leave the department or your company? What is the best path for you may not be the best path for everyone. It’s up to you to decide what length you want to go to in order to address this situation or if you would simply prefer to leave and find a non-toxic work environment. Whatever you decide, make sure you have the support that you need before making a move.
Learn to Deal with Gaslighting at Work
Gaslighting at work can have devastating effects on your self-esteem and self-trust. Therapy can help you validate your experiences and regain your confidence.
Contact us for a free consultation today.