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Top Signs Of Gaslighting At Work And 5 Tips To Prevent It

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Gaslighting is one of the forms of psychological abuse in which someone tries to gain power and influence over you by making you doubt yourself. When it comes to relationships or politics, we use the term "gaslight" quite frequently. But what about gaslighting at work?

Is it possible to manipulate someone to that extent in a professional setting? In a nutshell, yes!

The word "gaslighting" is derived from the 1938 drama "Gas Light." In the act, the heroine's spouse eventually persuades her that she is insane. Thus, such behavior eventually came to be known as "gaslighting."

Gaslighting is when someone lies to another person for personal advantage. And, with such conviction, the victim begins to doubt their perception of reality.

What Is Gaslighting At Work?

Gaslighting at work is when a person— a colleague or manager— invalidates what you know to be true. As per Vicki Salemi, a career expert, gaslighters tend to push you to question the facts and your capacity to execute your job.

In other words, they manipulate facts, words, and behavior (either unintentionally or purposely.) It confuses you, minimizes your sentiments, and stops you from success within a short time.

How Can You Identify A Gaslighter At Work?

According to Salemi, anyone can be a gaslighter at work. It can include coworkers, bosses, managers, supervisors, and people you manage.

But, as she argues, there's a crucial distinction to bear in mind.

A bad boss is someone who takes credit for your work. Whereas a manipulative gaslighter is someone who says you didn’t submit the work when you know for sure you did.

Toxic bosses who scream, bully, and abuse in public are easy to identify. But gaslighting behaviors are subtle. Thus, it's not always easy to recognize a gaslighter.

Some are persuasive and engaging, making people unaware of being gaslit. Other gaslighters are more reserved, which makes their manipulative tactics less noticeable. In any case, they all have the characteristics that we discuss in the points below.

Nine Examples Of Gaslighting At Work

  • If you hear unfavorable, false gossip about yourself, you are a victim of gaslighting.

  • You overhear the suspected gaslighter loudly criticizing others.

  • In this case, the gaslighter is a coworker who lies to you about why they didn't finish their part of the project. Despite the fact that you are aware that they wasted time on unnecessary breaks, they manage to convince you.

  • Downplaying is a major gaslighting tactic to maintain control over the victims. For example, you might find that your manager purposefully left you out of the loop in a meeting invitation. But when you don't contact or show up, you're criticized.

  • The gaslighter makes sexist/racist remarks to you but is always out of earshot, so there's no way to prove it. If someone reports it, they deny it, become defensive, and even turn the charge against others.

Read our blog on: 8 Ways To Call Out Racial Injustice At Work

  • Don’t you feel like losing your mind at work when someone insists on having a chat with you about which you have no clue? Gaslighters does that to you!

  • The gaslighter says they never received the presentation you submitted on time.

  • The gaslighter takes stuff from your desk and replaces them without asking.

  • The gaslighter claims to be doing something important when they are actually doing nothing.

If you recognize any of the above examples of gaslighting behavior and suspect you or a coworker is being gaslighted at work, there are a few things you can do.

Five Tips To Deal With Gaslighting At Work

1. Try having an honest conversation.

You can try having an open and honest conversation about how you feel. If you have, you can provide evidence and share examples of times when you've felt gaslighted. It's possible that there were some genuine misunderstandings. Maybe, the other person is overworked and not purposely gaslighting you.

However, if the person is purposefully gaslighting you, don't expect an admission of guilt. But the good news is that you can use that chat as evidence if you decide to file a complaint.

Must Read: 8 Tips On How To Have Difficult Conversations With Employees

2. Keep calm and get some physical space.

When coping with gaslighting, it's natural to feel a range of powerful emotions in the workplace. Anger, irritation, worries, grief, and fear are acceptable. But don't allow them to dictate your behavior. Maintaining your composure can help you deal with the issue.

It can be a traumatic experience to confront a gaslighter and expose their lies. On the other hand, your distress may encourage the gaslighter to manipulate you even more.

Keeping your cool in such situations can be a good tactic. It will help you focus on the truth and have the confidence to defend yourself.

If you feel, take a break, some physical distance, and come back to the matter later. You can also consider breathing exercises, visualization exercises, and some mindful meditation.

3. Stay grounded and document the reality.

If you are ever gaslighted, document everything important. It includes dates, timings, names of involved people, and any other significant data. Documentation is especially important when it comes to disciplinary or performance issues.

In most circumstances, confronting the gaslighter is not advised. It's best to do it with another person as a witness and document everything.

"The reality is, despite documentation and reporting the bad behavior, you may not be able to stop it. But the good news is that healthy work environments exist. If you're experiencing gaslighting in the workplace, pursue job opportunities away from that as soon as possible. Remaining in this toxic environment—even while working remotely—could stall both your career and your mental health," said Salemi.

4. Get a support system.

Make sure you have a supportive and non-judgmental person to talk to. But, be cautious while discussing your issues with coworkers. They'll always sympathize with you, but it can lead to even more unfavorable feelings. For better perspectives, take advice from someone you trust and who can become a witness to back you up.

The best option is to seek support from the human resources department. It could be a problem that another team member has dealt with before, and the HR department might know it better. However, the victim should never dismiss their feelings. They must remain anchored, reaffirm their reality, and have faith in themselves.

5. If you are the HR.

As the HR manager, you may not always be present to witness gaslighting on your team. But you can still keep an eye out for any signs.

If you notice top performers becoming increasingly disengaged and withdrawn, they may be dealing with gaslighting. Being gaslighted by their boss might be a major factor in why someone's performance suddenly deteriorates. Such incidences will gradually destroy their feeling of self-worth and confidence.

HR professionals should educate themselves on gaslighting techniques so that they can recognize them and, once again, document what they're seeing on behalf of the gaslighted employee.

If an employee discusses their personal experiences, you should look for small details. Look for gaslighting tendencies during conversations, written or in person.

Use restructuring to isolate the concerned manager by reducing their scope of responsibility. Eventually, you can make them individual contributors with no staff monitoring. Meanwhile, assist the targeted employee in finding a new position. Begin by endorsing them for jobs on other teams using your social and political capital.

You can also schedule mental health awareness training, trust-building events, or virtual team-building activities to assist distant teams.


It's not a sign of weakness to admit that your current working arrangement isn't suitable for you. It’s alright to seek a change, whether requesting a different position or quitting your job altogether.

But make sure to ask for assistance before allowing a gaslighter to force you out of a job you otherwise enjoy.

It's also important to heal from a gaslighting experience, as the effects might last for a long time.

This article is written by Susmita Sarma, a digital marketer at Vantage Circle. She was involved with media relations before shifting her interest to research and creative writing. Apart from being a classical music buff, she keeps a keen interest in anchoring and cooking. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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