8 Signs of Gaslighting & How To Deal With It

What is gaslighting at work? 

The phrase ‘gaslighting’ refers to the psychological manipulation of a specific individual or group, who are sometimes referred to as ‘gaslighters’. They will actively target a victim by making them doubt their recollection or their judgement. The majority of gaslighting occurs in personal relationships, although it can also occur in professional interactions. Gaslighting can take many forms at work, but it usually starts when a manager or coworker dismisses a worker’s performance. 

Gaslighting at work can be tough to detect, especially for victims who put in genuine effort and generally trust their peers. Even when victims defend themselves or discomfort with gaslighting, the gaslighter may become defensive, deny factual evidence about their behaviour and even dismiss the victim’s reality. 

8 signs of gaslighting at work:

  1. Withheld information

When one’s superior or coworker constantly forgets to inform you on important messages on purpose, it may be a sign of gaslighting. If you were not to get any information on important dates for meetings or deadlines, it might fall short of your expectations and would blame yourself for underperforming. When this kind of behaviour arises, it is better to rely on other resources for information. 

2. Negative performance narrative

This happens when coworkers or managers disparage a victim’s performance, skills and abilities even when they are doing their job properly. Usually, these judgments are due to biases and when victims advocate for themselves, they will dispute these claims with more gaslighting. 

3. Fluctuating expectation

In a professional setting, it is important that managers and superiors make their expectations clear so that they understand their roles and responsibilities. However, if the expectations continually change without any disclosure beforehand can make it challenging for the employees to achieve. You can overcome this by making sure communication is done properly.


4. Invalidation 

The most common way of gaslighting at the workplace is  by invalidation. For example, whenever you communicate your dissatisfaction or any concerns regarding your objectives, they will become defensive. This can happen whenever they challenge your perspective or by making you feel uncomfortable. Therefore, you may include another party to observe the conversation to help thwart a gaslighter’s attempts to invalidate you. 

5. Professional exclusion

If you were to be excluded from any advancement opportunities, recognition or professional development, you may be gaslighted into thinking that you don’t deserve it. People who gaslight others may have no viable justification for their behaviour and may even give reasons for the victim’s shortcomings. 

6. Inconsistent application of rules

Gaslighting can occur when supervisors or managers apply workplace regulations inconsistently to their advantage. For example, if your manager gives you permission to take time off over a long weekend, but then calls you on Friday to ask where you are and demands you come into the office unexpectedly. Keeping a written record of rules, exceptions, and permits from your manager can provide you with a point of reference and assist you avoid gaslighting due to inconsistency.

7. Victim blaming

Victim blaming happens frequently in the workplace when a professional expresses dissatisfaction with inequitable or unfair treatment. Being clear about your expectations for addressing a situation in which you feel victimised might help you steer such conversations purposefully and prevent opportunities for gaslighting. For example, if you were to raise an issue of a teammate excluding you and instead of reprimanding your teammate, they blame you instead. Therefore, it is important to understand and ask for clarification beforehand. 

8. Selective listening

When coworkers or supervisors selectively listen to you by dismissing facts you present in regular talks with them, this is where gaslighting occurs. This behaviour may cause you to doubt your capacity to speak or recall a conversation effectively. Making meeting notes or interacting with coworkers in writing might help you create a record of your interactions that you can refer to if they argue you didn’t communicate vital information the first time.

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