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To understand how to deal with gaslighting at work, it is important to understand what gaslighting is. Gaslighting is a psychological manipulation technique in which a person seeks to generate doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their memory, perception, or sanity. This can involve the following tactics to make the victim doubt their perceptions:

  • lying 
  • denying facts
  • distorting the truth 
  • and, using emotional manipulation or coercion 

Gaslighting at work refers to situations where a colleague or boss engages in these manipulative behaviours in a work environment. For example, they may question an employee's memory of a conversation or task. They could deny important information or feedback, or use emotional manipulation to create a culture of fear. 

This can have severe consequences for the employee's mental health and well-being and may lead to a loss of confidence or trust in their abilities. It is essential to recognize and address gaslighting behaviour in the workplace. It creates a safe and respectful environment for all employees.

5 signs of gaslighting at work with examples

Gaslighting at work can be challenging to recognise because it often involves subtle manipulation and psychological tactics. Some signs of gaslighting at work may include:

  1. Constantly questioning your memory or recollection of events: This can include a colleague or boss denying something that they said or did. This might make you feel like you're losing your grip on reality.
  1. Denying or minimising your accomplishments or contributions: Gaslighters may make you feel like your work needs to improve. They may also make you feel that you're not as capable as you thought.
  1. Blaming you for things that are not your fault: Gaslighters may try to shift blame onto you for things outside your control, making you feel guilty and responsible for things you had no part in.
  1. Withholding important information or feedback: Gaslighters may keep information from you or deliberately refrain from giving you feedback to make you feel unsure about your work and role.
  1. Creating a culture of fear: Gaslighters may use their position of power to control you and others in the workplace. This makes it difficult to speak up or challenge their authority.

In the TV show Suits, there are several examples of gaslighting in the workplace. For instance:

  1. Harvey Specter questions the memory and competence of his junior associate Mike Ross, causing him to doubt his own abilities.
  2. Louis Litt often withholds important information or feedback from his colleagues, making it difficult for them to do their jobs effectively.
  3. Jessica Pearson, at times, creates a culture of fear to control her subordinates.

These behaviours may seem harmless on the surface, but they can have severe consequences for employees' mental health and well-being. It is important to recognise and address gaslighting in the workplace to create a safe and respectful environment for all employees.

How to deal with gaslighting at work: employee POV

Dealing with gaslighting at work can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and address the situation:

  1. Recognize the signs: The first step in dealing with gaslighting is recognising the signs of the behaviour. Keep an eye out for behaviours such as denial, blame-shifting, or minimising your accomplishments.
  2. Keep a record: If you're experiencing gaslighting at work, it can be helpful to keep a record of incidents, including the date, time, and details of what was said or done. This can help you to build a case and provide evidence if you need to report the behaviour.
  3. Seek support: Talk to a trusted colleague or a mental health professional to help you process your emotions and develop coping strategies.
  4. Set boundaries: If possible, set clear boundaries with the person gaslighting you. Let them know that their behaviour is not okay.
  5. Speak to HR: If the gaslighting behaviour continues or becomes unbearable, speaking to HR or a supervisor may be necessary. They can help you to navigate the situation and take steps to address the behaviour.

Remember that gaslighting at work is a form of workplace harassment and is not tolerated. It's important to prioritise your mental health and well-being and take steps to address the situation.

How to deal with gaslighting at work: employer POV

As an employer, creating a safe and healthy work environment for all employees is crucial, including addressing gaslighting behaviour. Here are a few steps you can take:

  1. Recognize the behaviour: It's essential to educate yourself and your management team on what gaslighting is and how it can manifest in the workplace.
  2. Address the behaviour: If you notice gaslighting at work, address it immediately with the employee. Make it clear that these actions can have serious consequences.
  3. Provide resources: Offer resources such as employee assistance programs or counselling services for the gaslighter and the victim.
  4. Document everything: Keep detailed records of the gaslighting behaviour and any actions taken to address it. This can be important if the behaviour continues and formal action needs to be taken.
  5. Take appropriate action: If gaslighting continues, it may be necessary to take disciplinary action, including termination. Remember to follow all applicable laws and company policies when taking corrective action.

Overall, creating a workplace culture of respect and open communication is crucial. Prompt and effective action helps create a positive work environment for all employees.

Why workplaces should be mentally and psychologically safe

A safe work environment helps promote employees' mental health and well-being. When employees feel safe and supported at work, they are less likely to experience stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions that can impact their mental health. This can improve job satisfaction, better productivity, and reduce absenteeism.

A psychologically safe work environment also promotes open communication and collaboration among employees. Employees who feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions without fear of ridicule or retaliation will contribute to the organisation's success. 

This can lead to innovation, creativity, problem-solving, and improved team cohesion and morale. By prioritising employees' psychological safety, employers can create a more inclusive and productive work environment. This way all employees feel valued and supported.