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What Is Gaslighting at Work? 10 Clear Signs You're a Victim

Susan Halsey - Writer for Top10
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Navigating the intricacies of workplace dynamics often means confronting a range of interpersonal challenges, one of which is gaslighting—a subtle form of manipulation that may be harder to spot than one might think.

In a professional setting, gaslighting can manifest subtly, often appearing as casual remarks or inconspicuous behaviors. Yet, its influence on a person's well-being and work performance is profound, leaving many feeling overwhelmed and seeking additional support.

To maintain a workplace that thrives on trust, respect, and open communication, it's essential to understand and recognize the signs of gaslighting. This article will outline 10 clear indications that will equip you with the insights needed to ensure such manipulative tactics have no place in your professional journey.

What Is Gaslighting?

According to Psychology Today, “gaslighting is a form of manipulation and psychological control." It's a deliberate attempt to make someone question their reality and gain control over them. The term comes from the 1938 play Gas Light, in which a husband attempts to drive his wife insane by manipulating the gas lights in their apartment.

The essence of gaslighting lies in its repetitiveness and consistency. Over time, the targeted individual, constantly confronted with conflicting realities – their own and the one their manipulator is presenting – may start to doubt themselves. They might question their recollection of events, their feelings, or even their sanity.

Such self-doubt paves the way for the manipulator to exert control or influence over the individual, often leaving them feeling trapped, isolated, or powerless.

» Therapy is a small price to pay to feel good - let's check how much it costs.

1. Denial and Discrediting

What is gaslighting at work? A key gaslighting indicator is someone consistently denying your experiences and discrediting your ideas and achievements. This tactic aims to erode your self-trust and rely on the attacker's judgment.

It's frustrating when dishonest people surround you. Document your ideas, dates, and other pertinent information, and save the information on your personal devices or cloud accounts. Referring to these will help you be sure of the facts and more confident in yourself. Documentation will also help to bring your concerns to the HR department, if necessary.

2. Isolation and Alienation

You find yourself being left out of group emails. You are excluded from lunch and social events and may feel like others “team up” against you.

Check the reality of the signs of gaslighting at work. Talk to a trustworthy coworker, and ask for information and to be included. Consider teaming up with a supportive colleague or meeting a friend for lunch. Vent and reflect on feeling isolated on your job.

3. Gradual Erosion of Self-Confidence

Subtly and gradually, gaslighting brings your self-confidence down. Examples of gaslighting at work may include twisting and fabricating information, lying to confuse and deceive you, making you look bad, and making you feel insane.

If you find yourself questioning yourself at work, first ask this—Do you need to improve your work skills? Maybe building them can help you feel better. Is this not the issue? Then it may be due to your work environment. Positive self-talk can help with your perspective, but if your work is taking a toll on your mental health, you may want to consider talking to a therapist.

4. Important Information and Opportunities Are Being Withheld From You

You're not being invited to conferences and promotions, and due dates and other critical information are not being shared with you.

Determine if there is another way to get the necessary info and document when information is not shared with you. If this happens way too often, look for other job opportunities where you can thrive and succeed.

5. Constant Shifting of Responsibility

Gaslighters frequently avoid taking responsibility for their behavior and shift blame for their mistakes, shortcomings, and failures onto others. You may even find yourself feeling guilty for their misdeeds!

Defining your boundaries and responsibilities may be helpful. Avoid overreacting—calmly clarify your role and duties, and remember that you cannot change others. While it is unfortunate that you are left with doing the extra work, at least make it known.

» So, what to do when communication is NOT the key? Sometimes, silence can be your best defense.

6. Harassment

Your boss or coworker makes casual, quiet comments that may be racist, sexist, or straight-out demeaning.

Document these instances, and avoid spending time alone with these people. Many employers have Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion committees that may offer help. In fact, in the U.S., this treatment may meet the definition of harassment set by the Equal Opportunity Commission.

7. Fear of Solo Meetings

If you start to feel sick to your stomach and excessively anxious about solo meetings with certain people at work, don't brush it off.

Once again, document the outcome of the meeting—the work scope that was agreed upon to later use as a backup and any inappropriate comments or things said that made you feel uneasy. See if you can bring in other colleagues or leave the door open.

8. “Missing” Work Products

Sometimes, your boss or coworker insists they never received your work, making you look incompetent in front of others.

It's okay, don't lose your cool. Since you've been documenting everything, you can prove when your work was done and what your duties were. Slowly counting to 10 and taking a couple of deep breaths before speaking can help you ease your feelings and disprove them in a professional manner.

9. Unexplained Computer Logins

So, the boss comes down on you for wasting your time at work or not doing work-related stuff.

Assertively deny their claims, offer to explain what needs to be explained, and ask them how they came. to those conclusions. Immediately change your login information and passwords, and check for any monitoring software you didn't agree on. Keepsake your passwords, and lock everything up when you're away from your desk.

10. Sabotage

You handed in your report, written in detail, and fact-checked multiple times. However, during the meeting, you find that your data seems incomplete, and altered.

Have a copy of your original report prepared at all times. Bring it up, and instead of making accusations, start by asking "innocent" questions. "Something must have happened—I'm looking at my document right now, and it seems your copy is missing key information."

Managing an Unhealthy Workplace

Gaslighting is an insidious and subtle tactic that can undermine your mental health. If you are experiencing this at work, do not shy away from seeking help from a professional therapist.

Other strategies that may help ease the stress are regular exercise, eating right, having restful sleep, and practicing mindfulness. Reach out to your support network, accept your feelings, and read up on resources for depression management. While easier said than done, consider finding a new job. You deserve to be in an environment where you can thrive, not just survive!

» Feeling uneasy about defending yourself? Here's a list of advice on how to deal with gaslighting.

Susan Halsey - Writer for Top10
With 20+ years of experience as a licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Susan Halsey specializes in anxiety, mood disorders, ADHD, relationships, and sports psychology. She's a certified soccer coach and champions mental wellness through exercise and support networks.

The author of this article has been paid by Natural Intelligence to write this article. Neither the author nor Natural Intelligence provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or your local emergency number immediately.