Experiencing gaslighting can lead to self-doubt regarding your reactions, perceptions, and recollections, leaving you with a sense of powerlessness. In the workplace, gaslighting behaviour can specifically undermine your confidence in yourself and your professional capabilities.
However, it is essential to understand the characteristics of gaslighting within a work environment. Equally important is knowing what steps to take if you suspect that either you or one of your colleagues may be susceptible to this form of psychological manipulation.
Recognizing Gaslighting in the Workplace
Gaslighting, an emotionally manipulative behaviour aimed at undermining someone's credibility, is commonly associated with personal relationships but can also occur within the workplace, constituting a form of workplace bullying.
Before addressing gaslighting, it is crucial to develop the ability to identify its presence in the workplace. While diversity and inclusion training can aid in combating power dynamics and office politics, understanding how to spot gaslighting is a fundamental prerequisite.
In a work setting, gaslighting may manifest when an individual repeatedly denies or contradicts their previous statements or dismisses legitimate concerns by attributing them to excessive sensitivity. In severe cases, gaslighters may resort to sabotaging others' work to elevate their own competence.
For instance, gaslighting could involve a coworker who frequently affirms something in person but denies it later in email conversations, copying your boss.
Another example of gaslighting is a manager who consistently modifies deadlines without adequate notice, fails to communicate crucial information and subsequently blames you for not following instructions.
Dealing with workplace gaslighting can erode your confidence and contribute to burnout. Therefore, if you suspect its occurrence, it is crucial to address the issue promptly to mitigate its harmful effects.
Ways to Address Gaslighting
If you have noticed repeated instances of gaslighting in your workplace, it is crucial to take action. While diversity training plays a role in addressing this behaviour, there are also steps you can take in the short term to tackle gaslighting:
Learn the warning signs: Educate yourself on the warning signs of gaslighting to identify harmful behaviour early on. These signs may include persistent negative narratives about someone's performance, frequent negative gossip, sarcasm or public comments, exclusion from opportunities or activities, and, in extreme cases, intimidation.
Trust your instincts: Gaslighters excel at manipulation and may try to discredit anyone who calls them out. If you have a gut feeling that you or a team member is being targeted, trust your instincts and take action.
Overcome shame: Gaslighting can erode self-esteem, causing feelings of guilt or shame when addressing the situation. Remember that your feelings are valid, and you deserve to work in a safe and respectful environment.
Avoid immediate reactions: Gaslighters often try to provoke their victims into reacting impulsively or inappropriately. Instead of responding in the heat of the moment, take a deep breath and write down what was said or done. This allows you to address the issue more calmly at a later stage.
Speak with a manager: If you suspect gaslighting, it is advisable to discuss the situation with your manager or boss, who can intervene. Providing records of the gaslighter's behaviour can support your complaint.
Minimize exposure: While working towards a long-term solution, consider reducing your exposure to the gaslighter's negative behaviour. For example, try rearranging your schedule to avoid crossing paths with them or request a transfer to another department if possible.
Advocate for inclusion training: Gathering evidence of gaslighting allows you to make a compelling case for inclusion training. Inclusion and diversity training can foster a sense of inclusivity, improve conflict resolution, and contribute to a more positive work environment.
Remember, addressing gaslighting is essential for maintaining a healthy workplace atmosphere and promoting mutual respect. If you're interested in minimizing office politics and fostering a positive working environment, Berlitz offers cross-cultural training to support diversity, cultural understanding, and inclusivity among colleagues, clients, and partners.