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What is Gaslighting in the Workplace?

Gaslighting​ is a common buzzword used these days to describe the manipulation of others by distorting or denying their reality, making them question their perceptions, memories, and even sanity. In the workplace, gaslighting is a particularly serious issue that can have detrimental effects, not only on the victim’s mental and emotional well-being, but for the team’s productivity and interpersonal cohesion. In this article, we will explore what gaslighting is, its impact on individuals, and ways to recognize and address the toxic behavior in a work environment. Your improved knowledge on this harmful practice will help you create a safer and more supportive workplace for everyone.

Understanding Gaslighting in the Workplace

For gaslighting to work, a power dynamic​ must exist between the perpetrator and their victim. Oftentimes, the gaslighter has more leverage or rank over the person they are targeting with their manipulative tactics. For example, a boss can take advantage of the relationship they have with an employee, or a senior member might try to gaslight an intern. For a variety of reasons, this person wields their influence as a cudgel to maintain control or undermine the victim’s credibility, sometimes to pass blame​ or achieve their own ambitions at the expense of another. At its core, gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that makes a person doubt themselves and their abilities.

Recognizing Gaslighting Behavior

The best way to address and combat gaslighting behavior in the workplace is by learning how to recognize it when its being done toward yourself or a colleague. Here are some common signs to look out for when someone may be using gaslighting tactics:

Unfortunately, successful gaslighting behavior is often subtle and insidious, which can make identifying it all the more challenging. The key is to remain vigilant when you see potential signs and trust your instincts.

Addressing Gaslighting

Effectively addressing gaslighting in the workplace requires a collective effort to create a supportive and respectful environment​ and culture. If you suspect that someone is trying to gaslight you or another person, maintain self-awareness​ and trust your own perception and experiences. Seek support from colleagues and leaders that you trust, as these individuals can provide you an objective perspective and meaningful guidance. When confronting a gaslighter, always remain calm, but assertive. Express how their behavior is inappropriate and offer them a solution to change their approach. If necessary, you may need to get your supervisor, or the HR department involved.

Everyone deserves to work in an environment where their experiences and contributions are validated and acknowledged. Gaslighting is a harmful tact that seeks to undermine those achievements, but together with your team, you can create a workplace that nurtures growth, well-being, and success for all.

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