Gas lighting is more common than most people can appreciate. You will see it in your personal life, but more and more, you will either witness gaslighting at work or suffer the consequences of being a victim of gaslighting.
We will look at gaslighting in this article from a workplace point of view, and once you fully understand what gaslighting is, will you be able to understand you are a victim or, worse, recognise you’re the gas lighter with the choice to change or not?
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is the dark side of emotional intelligence. It is how a person uses manipulative tactics to gain power and control over another individual. Constant self-doubt and questioning slowly cause the individual to question their reality.
The term originates in a sordid movie called “Gaslight” from the 1940s. In it, an overbearing, abusive husband paints his wife as the crazy one, making her believe she is seeing and hearing things by messing with the gaslights and then denying it. In recent years, the term has been extensively used in clinical and research literature.
Gaslighting is not only performed on individuals but also groups. You only need to look in the history books under cults and toxic religious groups to see examples of gaslighting to the extreme.
Even though gaslighting is so pervasive, it is still technically not illegal.
Ten tell-tale signs of gaslighting at work
So are you being gaslighted at work? Many victims of gaslighting tactics fail to recognise it because they’re being manipulated to be full of self-doubt. But here are some signs that you may be a target of psychological manipulation. Here are 10 tell tale signs that I found all over the internet.
1. You’re constantly questioning your perception.
“This is the most apparent sign of gaslighting,” says licensed psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo. “If you’re overwhelmed with self-doubt after a meeting with a co-worker and find yourself second-guessing your version of events, you’re probably being gaslighted.”
2. The gaslighter tells you you’re making mistakes when you know you aren’t.
You’re competent. You’re good at your job. So why are you being told that you’ve made multiple errors lately when you’re pretty sure you haven’t? That could be the gaslighter’s manipulation tactic, especially if they suffer career envy and want you out of the door. This is typical gaslighting at work tactics.
Rolf Bax, chief human resources officer at Resume.io, has witnessed this. “I have seen a situation in which a new manager comes in, feels threatened by a star team member and sets about convincing the employee that they are making more errors than they are and shooting down and poking holes in all of their contributions,” he says.
3. They tell you they “never said that,” but you know they did.
This is common gaslighting behaviour. They’ll deny saying something that they said. They’ll say, “I never said that”, so vehemently that you’ll start believing them and doubting yourself. Recording your meetings is the only way to truly protect yourself against this.
4. They praise you privately but criticise you in front of the rest of the team (or vice versa).
Remember, the gaslighter is trying to make you doubt your perception of reality, so they will twist things so that you never know which version to believe. They can do this by being two-faced, they act friendly to you, but when you’re not around, they berate you. Or they criticise you when no one else is around but praise you when others are there to witness. The goal is to create confusion, so you question what’s true.
We have all come across the office assassins that show this behaviour daily.
5. You’re frequently left out of important meetings and decision-making conversations.
This is another significant sign of gaslighting at work. The gaslighter will leave you out of important meetings, conversations and projects without a clear reason. When you try to find out why you weren’t included, they’ll make you think you’re overreacting or were mistaken and didn’t need to be included in that conversation. Even when something is key to your work, they’ll convince you it’s not.
Finding that you’re constantly being excluded might be a sign that you’re being gaslighted. It is also a warning sign that you are being pushed towards the door.
6. When you try to address issues, the gaslighter dismisses your concerns.
When you bring a concern to a gaslighter, they’ll dismiss it (especially if it’s an issue they caused). This is another way they can manipulate you into believing you’re the problem.
For example, you might notice that the suspected gaslighter frequently leaves you out of email threads relevant to your work. When you ask them about it, they’ll say they didn’t mean to do it or that you’re being too hard on them for what was an honest mistake.
7. Other people are starting to notice how the gaslighter treats you.
This is a big one. When gaslighting at work goes on long enough, your colleagues will probably notice you’re being treated differently. Now, they may or may not say anything or help you. It’s up to you to find a trusted colleague who will be honest with you about what they’re noticing.
8. You keep getting bumped into lesser, insignificant projects.
More than just being excluded, you might find that you’re being given “busy work,” those meaningless projects that keep you occupied but have no real impact. This could be an effort to undermine your authority and sabotage your productivity so that when performance reviews come around, you have no results to show because you were never given any meaningful work.
9. The gaslighter manipulates situations to embarrass you.
For example, the gaslighter might intentionally “forget” to email you about a meeting, so naturally, you don’t show up because you didn’t know about it. Then, they will reprimand you for missing the meeting.
10. No matter how hard you try, your work is never “good enough.”
As mentioned earlier, the gaslighter will find errors, even when they aren’t there. But they also will act unimpressed, or even disappointed, in even your best work. They do this to erode your self-esteem and make you doubt your ability to do your job.
So gaslighting at work list is tragically common in the work environment, and if you are a leader or manager, look at the list and see if you are guilty of any of the ten. If you are, then you need to not only stop it but also figure out what damage you have done and repair it.