Gaslighting at Work

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse.

The perpetrator will use consistent yet subtle manipulation tactics designed to make you question reality.

The gaslighter will keep you off balance, always wondering if you’re the one with the problem.

Most gaslighting tactics are difficult to spot, especially since the gaslighter is usually very charming and has excellent people skills, making this person easy to be believed.

Because the workplace is already an environment of unequal power between the boss and employees, with coworkers struggling to make their way up the ladder, it’s a fertile environment where a gaslighter can use his or her techniques to gain control or power over you.

A gaslighter will use deception and blame to invalidate you and your efforts in the workplace.

Whether your boss or a coworker, there are some signs that you can watch out for to determine if you’re being gaslighted at work:

Makes you question your memory or recollection of events

A gaslighter will make you doubt yourself, your mental capacity, and your abilities. Over time, you may begin to worry that you can’t keep the information you’re given straight.

Even if you write things down, the gaslighter will insist that he or she is right and that you must have written it down wrong.

Your boss gives you a deadline on a project. You’re working hard to get it done by the requested timeline. Two days before the project is due, he asks if the project is done.

When you say that it’s not, he asks why it’s not done, claiming that he specifically told you today. If you try to counter him with the date he told you, he’ll say that you got the information wrong.

He may even become angry and begin to question your competence. In his generosity, he’ll give you until this evening, meaning that you’ll have to cancel plans that you made for tonight to stay late at work to get it done.

Belittles you consistently in private or around others

The gaslighter may whisper disparaging remarks to you while maintaining a smile on her face so that others in the office don’t know what’s happening.

She may gossip about you to other coworkers or the boss, making others question your private life or your ability to perform your job. This may also be done to isolate you from others in the workplace, another technique frequently used by gaslighters.

Your coworker is always talking about how hard her job is compared to yours. She says that she wishes she had your easy job and that she would certainly be able to get the work done much faster than you do.

If she had your job, she certainly would have earned that promotion by now.

Tells lies to you or about you

By telling lies, the gaslighter is setting up a precedent for his behavior and as a way to keep you confused. You may realize the lies at first, but as time goes on, it’s a way to make you question the truth.

Pretty soon, you may believe the lies and think that there’s something wrong with you.

Your boss tells you to make a certain project a priority. You work on it all day, making good progress at the expense of the other projects on your desk.

The next day, your boss insists that he told you a different project is a priority and that he told you that yesterday.

Your coworker may tell you that he overheard the boss saying you’re likely to get fired if you don’t start doing your job right even if the boss never said such a thing.

A coworker may tell you that the boss said an important meeting is at a different time, only to have you arrive late while the meeting is already in progress.

If you explain that you were told the new time, your coworker will deny it, and my blame your tardiness on your bad memory or poor work ethic.

Withholds information

One of the ways that a gaslighter can make you look bad and have you questioning your reality is by withholding important information from you.

You may find that you’re not receiving important group emails or memos, only to be berated later by the boss for not following the information these messages provided.

Perhaps your boss and coworker were talking about a new idea, and your coworker was supposed to give you the information for a project. She doesn’t.

When your boss comes and asks you how the new project is coming along, you have no idea what he’s talking about. Your coworker comes up and says that she told you this information at a specific time, just like your boss requested.

You have no recollection of any of this. As an added insult, your coworker may have already completed the project, saying that she went ahead and did it because she knew you wouldn’t get to it as she hands the finished work to the boss right in front of you.

Sabotages your efforts

If the work you submit to your boss consistently seems to disappear off of her desk, you might be a victim of gaslighting.

A gaslighting boss will sabotage you to make you question what you have and haven’t done. As for coworkers, a gaslighter may sabotage you differently.

Maybe the two of you were discussing an idea. However, he discusses it with your boss first, claiming the idea as his own.

You finally finished the project your boss has been waiting for. You get up to go take it to her, and you meet your coworker on the way.

After a bit of small talk, you tell him that you’re on your way to take this completed work to your boss, which she has been waiting for.

Your coworker tells you he’s actually on his way to see her right now, so he’ll go ahead and take it to her. You have additional pressing matters on your desk, so you agree.

Later that afternoon, your boss comes to your desk asking about the project. You tell her that you gave it to your coworker to give to her. He tells you not to bring him into this and not to blame him that you can’t finish your work on time.

Changes in agreements or the rules

A gaslighting boss will regularly mix up how the office is run to keep you questioning your sanity.

Company policies are altered on a seemingly daily basis depending on how your boss feels at the moment or what will best fit his agenda. There are a couple of good examples of this tactic.

Your boss promises you a promotion if you can get a specific client to commit to a contract.

After working for weeks to make the deal, you finally succeed. You never hear anything else about the promotion. If you confront your boss about it, he’ll deny the agreement.

He may even accuse you of overreacting or of being overly emotional if you press the matter.

A month ago, you made plans to take a couple of vacation days to have a long weekend so that your family could visit relatives out of town.

Your boss assured you that you would have no problem taking Friday and Monday off. You come back to work on Tuesday, and you get reamed by the boss for missing work without calling in.

He threatens to fire you if you ever do it again. You leave the office confused and in tears.

Blames you

When something doesn’t go as planned in the office, it’s easy for the gaslighting boss or coworker to blame you.

Past conversations get twisted, making you the one at fault for any inconsistencies.

If a coworker gets in trouble for turning in an assignment late, she may claim that you told her that the boss said it wasn’t due until tomorrow, in which case she is turning it in early, making it look like she’s more productive.

Sexual harassment and gaslighting

Gaslighting is commonly used to counter sexual harassment in the workplace.

The perpetrator will claim that you’re lying about it, that you misconstrued what was said, or that the touch was completely accidental, and you’re the one who’s just overreacting.

The harasser may also blame you for the encounter, claiming that you were leading her on and that she was just reacting to what she believed was a legitimate advance on your part.

If you file a complaint with your company’s HR department, your boss may use lies, denial, or blame for the encounter.

He may claim that his hand accidentally rubbed against your behind as he walked past you in a narrow walkway.

She might lie and say that she never said those comments on what she would like to do to you if she had you alone.

He may even say that you threatened him with a sexual harassment claim against him if he didn’t give you a raise, even though he’s the one who said you needed to perform sexual favors for him in return for a raise.

Gaslighting is never okay. Once you’re aware of the gaslighting behavior, you’ll be more equipped to counter it and maintain self-confidence.

Can a gifted therapist help you too?

If you struggle with anxiety, depression, high-stress levels, relationship issues, or other specific challenges, one-on-one support from a therapist can help a lot.

You don’t need to go through this alone. There’s no shame in getting help!

Thousands of people get tailor-made support from a kind, empathetic, helpful therapist when faced with difficult life situations.

I recommend BetterHelp, which is a sponsor of Personality Unleashed.

It’s private, affordable, and takes place in the comfort of your own home.

Plus, you can talk to your therapist however you feel comfortable, whether through video, phone, or messaging.

Are you ready to break the negativity cycle?

Personality Unleashed readers get 10% off their first month. Click here to learn more.

Similar Posts