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Is someone gaslighting you at work?

Posted on 2021-12-22 03:00:00

Repeat after us: It’s not OK.

First things first, let’s get the definition out of the way: Gaslighting is when someone makes you question your version of events. For example, a colleague promises to let the boss know if you help out with a project you’re not involved in but when he doesn’t and you confront him about it, he says “No, I never said that.” You’re sure he did… but because of what he said, you’re wondering, did he really?

He can even play the victim, saying that you’re lying about his intentions and purposely making him look bad. Suddenly you’re the one apologizing! Wait, what?

And so begins the effects of gaslighting where your colleague has started sowing seeds of doubt in you, making you question your memory and events of things as well as your judgement.

The phrase was first introduced in a mystery thriller called Gas Light in 1938 staring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. To read more about the premise, just Wiki it.

What you need to know about gaslighting is that it doesn’t just happen in personal relationships but it can happen at work too. How does it affect you at work if you are dealing with a gaslighter? First, it creates doubt in yourself, making you wonder your self-worth. Then the obvious one is that you’re dealing with a liar and a manipulator, which is never good for your career because this person is using you to get ahead and sabotaging you to undermine your reputation. Third – and the most important – if continued and made known to others, people might begin to think that you’re the one antagonizing your colleague and that he’s the real victim, making you look bad not only to your colleagues but also management.

What are some gaslighting at work examples:

  • You are super duper sure you turned in your part of your work but the gaslighter insists that you didn’t, saying it’s your fault the team didn’t meet the deadline.
  • You are sure the gaslighter has said some unfavourable things about you but you don’t exactly have the proof. When you confront him or report him, he denies it and even turns the accusation around on you.
  • You feel like you constantly have to prove yourself to the gaslighter (particularly if he is a boss) and nothing you do is enough and you’re made to feel small.
  • You know the gaslighter has been moving your things and messing with your computer but you don’t have the evidence. And when you confront him, he says you’re crazy.
  • You’re intentionally not included in a meeting by the gaslighter and when you don’t show up, you are reprimanded.

Is this what’s happening to you at work? If everything sounds familiar, here are some things you need to do to keep your sanity and your job!

#1 Be meticulous about details and records
When dealing with the gaslighter, always have a record. For example, after your meeting with your gaslighter, send an email to recap what was spoken about and make sure you get him to acknowledge it. It may seem petty but it’s what’s necessary to save your job.

#2 Be direct and straightforward
If you mean 10, say 10. If you mean tomorrow, say tomorrow and not in two days time. And if possible, make sure someone else is around to hear it. This way, there’s no chance for your gaslighter to say otherwise because there’s no ifs and buts.

#3 Be sure of yourself
When you show signs of weakness and uncertainty, that’s when your gaslighter hits you the hardest. But if you show confidence and that you’re certain and on top of everything that’s happening, there’s no chance your galighter can take advantage of the situation. In fact, he might even think twice about picking you as a victim of his manipulative ways!

#4 Play the game yourself
No, we don’t mean that you be manipulative and lie yourself but turn the table around and make the gaslighter look like the one who’s changing his story in front of everyone. Basically, have the upper hand and don’t give the gaslighter any opportunity to play his game.

#5 Keep it professional
One things gaslighters love doing is to make it seem like a personal thing. You’re too sensitive. You can’t take a joke. That sort of thing. To avoid this from happening to you, keep all your interactions with your gaslighter strictly professional. Discuss work and that’s that. Even with work, keep it short and sweet so there’s no opportunity for your gaslighter to take advantage of.

Photo by tzahiV on iStock

By Mel Sim


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