How To Tackle Gaslighting Grievances In The Workplace.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation in which someone tries to make another person question their own reality. It often occurs in abusive relationships and can be difficult to identify.
Unfortunately, gaslighting can also take place at work, as some colleagues may attempt to manipulate others for their own ends. Despite the sinister connotations, gaslighting has little to do with lighting or fire — it’s actually a word originally from acting that refers to when someone is trying to trick you by convincing you that something that isn’t so, is so; or vice versa. In this article, we explore what gaslighting at work means, how it can happen and what you should do if you suspect a colleague is attempting to gaslight you.
What is Gaslighting in the Workplace?
Gaslighting in its most extreme form can be difficult to identify, as the manipulator will try to convince the victim that their own feelings are incorrect. This can lead to the victim questioning their own sanity and becoming increasingly isolated.
Gaslighting doesn’t always happen in the workplace, but it can. If a colleague is trying to manipulate you, it can make you feel stressed, anxious, and even paranoid. If you think a colleague is trying to gaslight you, you should try and identify the signs. By knowing what to look out for, you’ll be able to put a stop to the manipulation and regain your confidence.
There may be times when you aren’t sure whether you’re being treated fairly at work. You may also be in a situation where you feel as if you’re being given the wrong end of the stick.
How to spot gaslighting in the workplace
Unwarranted criticism – If a colleague’s criticism of you doesn’t seem justified, it could be an attempt to undermine you. If you can’t see any flaws in your work, the criticism could be unfair or even be a form of gaslighting.
Denying your achievements – Some colleagues may try to invalidate a promotion or praise that you’ve received, as a way of bringing you down a peg or two. This is another example of gaslighting.
Unreasonable requests – A manager who gives you unreasonable instructions or expects you to take on too much could be trying to make you feel stressed, or even trigger you into leaving the company.
Presumptuous remarks – Some colleagues may seize on an innocent comment and take it too far. For instance, if you say you’re going to the gym, a colleague may say, “I hope you’re going to lift some heavy weights.” This could be a way to subtly mock you.
Excessive criticism – Criticism is part of the workplace and can often be constructive. However, if a colleague is constantly criticizing you for no apparent reason, or making you feel as if you’re under a microscope, it could be an attempt to intimidate you.
What to do if you’re being gaslighted at work
If you’re being gaslighted in the office, you may feel as if you’re going crazy. You’ll likely feel confused and anxious and may start to feel as if you’re struggling to cope. You may try to seek solace in colleagues, but they may not understand what you’re going through, as they’ve probably not been gaslighted themselves.
If you suspect you’re being gaslighted, you should try and set some boundaries with your colleague. This may involve having an honest discussion and explaining that you’re finding their behavior distressing. Be careful not to confront someone who is clearly trying to provoke you and turn the situation into a shouting match.
If you can’t confront your colleague directly, you may want to consider involving your manager. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you could ask a trusted colleague to talk to your manager on your behalf. However, be careful not to make accusations, as you may be treated as if you’re gaslighting your colleague.
Confronting a gaslighter in the workplace
As previously mentioned, confronting a colleague who is gaslighting you can be difficult. You’ll first want to make sure you have your facts straight, as you don’t want to make a false accusation or be wrongly accused of gaslighting.
You’ll also want to be careful not to react in a way that could lead to a shouting match. When you confront someone who is gaslighting you, it’s important to remain calm and not lose your temper. State your case calmly, but confidently. If you’re accused of gaslighting, you can defend yourself by explaining that you haven’t done anything wrong.
Resolving a gaslighting grievance through dialogue
If you’ve been targeted by a colleague who is gaslighting you, it’s important to try and resolve the situation as quickly as possible. It may not be possible to stop the person from bullying you, but you may be able to minimize the effects.
Try not to take the person’s behavior personally. Keep a record of events, and report any incidents to your manager as soon as possible. You may also want to consider making a complaint to your company’s HR department. Keep an open mind, and try to avoid getting drawn into the other person’s drama. Some colleagues may gaslight others because they’re feeling insecure about themselves. You might find that the bullying eases off if you treat the person with respect.