Integrity is something that can be hard to come by in the workplace. While you might be the most fair and honest person you know, there are a lot of folks that are merely in it for themselves. That, and some folks are just plain delusional, right? The feeling that comes after realising you’re being gaslighted by a coworker, manager, or CEO is one that’s very hard to overcome.
Gaslighting is using a variety of manipulation tactics to make someone look incompetent, or to bend their will in order to extract something from them. The old example of a manager using a smart up-and-comer’s knowledge and talent to make them look good in front of upper management is one we’ve all seen in the movies and real life.
We all know how important it is to take action to fix the lies and deceit a gaslighter can cause, but how can you tell if it’s happening to you?
Everything is always your fault.
This is a sign of gaslighting most of us can recognise fairly quickly. A shameless gaslighter blames everyone but themselves. They can be seen in the boss’s office with the door closed on a regular basis, quietly spilling the beans about “so-and-so” and how they screwed something up. They might act nice to your face, but when you find you’re getting reprimanded constantly for missing issues on project you’ve shared with them, you’re likely being gaslighted.
When you confront them, they’ll often be condescending, reminding you of the totality of all the things you’ve messed up. A smart gaslighter will also finish a conversation by offering a sliver of hope such as “I’m really hoping things will improve” or “I’m pulling for your success in this company” just to calm you down and prevent you from taking the issue to the next level.
Critical details are always missing in key conversations.
An unscrupulous gaslighter will always fail to give you the whole story when talking about a project or offering instructions on how to get a task or project done. In the case of a delusional screw-up turned gaslighter, they may just be a bumbling moron who probably doesn’t belong in their position. Many will do it on purpose, knowing you’re going to take the hit when everything gets messed up.
They’ll fail to send you essential forecasts, reports, or client details — only to swear later that it’s all in your inbox and you need to work at organising things better — even though you know full well the message was never sent. When this happens more than a couple of times, it should be obvious that person has it out for you and can’t be trusted.
Even undeniable proof isn’t enough to effectively plead your case.
Those times when you have undeniable proof that a manager promised you a promotion if you worked late all throughout June on an important project. The gaslighter will retract on their promise, deny it was ever made, and accuse you of “making up” email proof, or just straight ignore you when confronted.
Integrity means nothing to a gaslighter, and surprise surprises, they’ll always find a way to belittle you for trying so hard to argue or otherwise get in their way. “Can’t you see how hard I’m working?” — “You’re so selfish” — etcetera.
How gaslighting behavior impacts your work and life:
The behavior can literally turn your life upside down.
- You have this constant feeling of incompetence, despite all your past victories.
- You start procrastinating on things for fear of the backlash (that’s become inevitable at a certain point).
- You stop talking to friends and family about your job.
- You stop considering leaving for greener pastures because you’ve become so disillusioned you can’t stop trying to make things right with the abuser.
- You become develop what equates to battered spouse syndrome — whereby you’re constantly trying to kiss up to the gaslighter in what’s always a failed effort to improve things.
Often, your future is bleak if you’re being singled out and the abuser is in a position of power above you.
What to do when you’ve been gaslighted?
When you’ve been gaslighted, it’s important to realise that this person isn’t likely to ever back down. Such behavior doesn’t start overnight and it’s near impossible to change someone who’s hell-bent on pushing you down. Whether you maintain your current job or choose other employment depends on a bunch of factors; some unique to your job and others that exist in many workplaces:
- Is it possible you offended this person and there’s a possibility a conversation can smooth things over? (Unlikely, as the root of a gaslighter’s psychology usually has nothing to do with you at all).
- Is there anyone above the gaslighter you can talk to about the problems you’ve been having? Will they believe you?
- Is it possible the rest of the staff recognises this behavior — are they being subjected to it as well?
- Is it worth keeping this job and risking the tarnished reference that may result from you continuing to deal with the abuse?
Some can overcome a gaslighter simply by keeping meticulous notes, such as details of your interactions with the abuser and any solid proof like emails and texts. The situation may require looking for new employment. Once you realise this person is going out of their way to thwart your career, action needs to be taken.
Don’t confront them, go straight to HR or the CEO. Explain the situation, providing accurate examples of things that have happened. Have faith that the truth will set you free and that the person who’s gaslighted you will drown in their pool of lies and deceit when confronted with irrefutable proof.
Have you ever dealt with a gaslighter?
How did you handle the situation?