Gaslighting At Work?

Gaslighting.  I usually think of gaslighting in terms of intimate relationships.  But, like any negative behavior, it can manifest in just about any type of relationship.  Including work relationships.  The hallmark of gaslighting behavior is when one person (or group) works to make another person (or group) doubt their own memories, experiences, judgement, and even feelings.  On an ongoing basis.

Gaslighting doesn’t only affect the person who’s targeted.  It also alters the relationships between the target and others, who may believe the gaslighter or at least wonder if there isn’t a kernel of truth in what they’re saying, or who are afraid of the gaslighter and back away (and don’t support) the targeted person, or (and perhaps some cynicism is showing) can see a benefit to themselves to support the gaslighter and knowingly join in.  

One very essential key to remember about gaslighting.  It’s not about what’s true.  It’s not about if you really have proof that you did deliver on your job, that you are a top performer, that your clients love you.  It’s about manipulating the social relationships around you to create an unhealthy workplace and turn around and blame you.  You can have all the solid evidence in the universe, the whole idea is the gaslighter is manipulating the social environment so their lies are, well, if not believed, they form the basis for action going forward.  Who gets promoted, or choice clients or assignments, or financial rewards.  Who gets to literally define reality.

What to do?  Well, the solutions are pretty simple, yet not at all easy.

First, and maybe not so simple, is to recognize it.  Gaslighting happens gradually, over time.  Anyone can be susceptible.  Read a bit about it.  You may be inclined to think, well everyone has some flaws, this isn’t really gaslighting because they are sometimes so nice and complimentary and it all will be OK, and I can do better too, and maybe they will change.  Nah.  The best predictor of a person’s future actions is their past actions.

Make powerful friends.  Or a large number of friends, who actually would recognize that it could have been them and who will be visibly supportive.  Violence thrives in silence.

Be one of those friends.  It could just as easily have been you.  

Document.  Keep a log of what the gaslighter said and did, when, who else was around.

Consider if it is safe to call the gaslighter on their behavior.  If you do, consider NOT using words like “gaslighter,” rather stick to the actual behavior.  “Gaslighting” and “gaslighter’ are interpretations of that behavior, and using them can backfire on you, and can be used against you as evidence of your own “agenda.”

And maybe it’s time for a reality check.  Many of us cannot marshall that army of supporters.  And many people end up  finding another job.  Gaslighters will try to wear you down over time, and limiting your exposure may be your healthiest option.

Well, that’s it for today.  Please check out our summer class offerings.  I now have put two more six-week courses on the calendar, one begins Aug 4 and the other Sept 11.  And they are both in-person classes.  If you’re registering, please be vaccinated before the start of class.

Stay safe, find options, live life.