Do You Know What “Gaslighting” Is?

18 de January de 2022
5 min

Do You Know What “Gaslighting” Is?

Have you heard of the term gaslighting?

Imagine this scene.

“Lara is a woman who works as an administrative assistant. In her company, no one supports or supervises the assistants’ work, and whenever there is an error, they are blamed. Moreover, the boss is constantly criticizing Lara’s actions. But not in a constructive way. Not even with evidence… rather, based on his personal opinion. Moreover, he seems to make an effort to make her feel excluded. They don’t notify her to go for coffee and during breaks, they are constantly whispering behind her back.”

What is the “Gaslighting” Phenomenon

The gaslighting phenomenon is a type of psychological abuse also called “gaslighting”. By definition, it involves a manipulation strategy that causes the victim to doubt their perception, judgment, or even memory.

This type of abusive relationship can occur in affective relationships as well as in other types. Among them is gaslighting at work.

In this case, it can be triggered by various agents (not necessarily a boss). From the manager, to coworkers, a competitor, or even a client. Moreover, it does not necessarily have to occur in the office context, but can also appear in online settings.

Characteristics of Gaslighting at Work

This type of abusive relationship has specific characteristics when it occurs in the workplace.

  • Constant allusions, comments, and negative reactions towards the victim: whether by bosses, colleagues, or others, there is a constant negativity towards that person. This negativity can refer to their personality, performance, work, or even their credibility. It’s important to remember that no objective evidence or opinions are shown, but this negativity is based on biased opinions.
  • Toxic or negative environment: filled with gossip, rumors, and gestures aimed at making the other person feel bad. These can be direct (such as public comments), or indirect (for example, being excluded from coffee breaks). Another indirect example could be blocking a promotion or favoring any other person over the said worker.
  • Sarcasm and cynicism: a way to express anger and hostility disguised as another type of comments. This aims to expose the person, marginalize them, or even manipulate them.
  • It may imply a status quo: for example, if you are a woman and notice the glass ceiling or are assigned tasks associated with “ordering and cleaning or caring” instead of “deciding, commanding, coordinating”. Or for example, if you are a person of color and you are not promoted, but your white-Caucasian coworkers are, even though they joined after you.
  • Persistent unfair treatment: it happens if not every day, almost every day. Moreover, it’s something visible and observable by others outside of that abusive relationship.
Red human figure surrounded by a circle of people. Leader Boss and leadership. Cooperation and teamwork. Outcast, hated opponent, criminal. Conviction. Discrimination and violence.

Consequences of Gaslighting at Work

Given that it is an abusive relationship, it entails a series of negative consequences. It is important to bear in mind that the ultimate goal of gaslighting is to nullify the victim, making them doubt their own words. And not only that… but to question the things that he or she has seen or experienced, given the reaction of the gaslighter. Therefore, we endanger not only their judgment but also their self-esteem. These could be some of the consequences:

  1. Constantly doubting yourself and your abilities or even your judgment
  2. Difficulties in making decisions since you doubt your own judgment
  3. Changes in the way you act or think to please the aggressor or for fear of their reaction
  4. Changes in your way of working to avoid mistreatment
  5. Decrease in productivity and attention difficulties given the negative load of the situation
  6. Increase in stress and therefore, all associated consequences.
  7. Feelings of insecurity, helplessness, indecision or even fear and guilt.
  8. Constant apologies in almost any situation even if you are not directly to blame for the things that have happened.

What to Do If I Am Experiencing Gaslighting

Given that it is an abusive relationship, the best thing is always to seek the help of a professional who can assist us. In that sense, a psychologist will help us not only to work on the effects it has had on us but also to prevent future relationships of this kind.

In addition, it will be best to distance ourselves as much as possible from the figure of the gaslighter. That means if it’s someone from our company, we keep our distance from that person not only physically but also in terms of sharing space and time. On the other hand, it’s very important to seek realistic, objective opinions. Not those biased by those who are gaslighting us. Remember that gaslighting occurs through subjective opinions. Therefore, maintaining objectivity in self-evaluation and surrounding ourselves with people who do not emit value judgments will protect us from this phenomenon.