Gaslighting In The Workplace.

Gaslighting at the office The English Language Coach

Gaslighting In The Workplace.

Gaslighting in the workplace is not a new phenomenon; it has been happening for a long time. While the term “gaslighting” gained popularity in recent years due to its use in psychology and the media, the behaviour itself has been observed in various social contexts, including workplaces, throughout history.

The concept of gaslighting originated from the 1944 film “Gaslight,” but the behaviour it represents has been present in human interactions for centuries. Manipulative tactics, psychological abuse, and attempts to control others by undermining their perceptions and confidence have existed in various forms throughout history.

In the context of workplaces, gaslighting has likely occurred for as long as there have been hierarchical structures and power dynamics between managers and employees. In environments where authority figures hold significant power over others, there is a potential for manipulation and abusive behaviour.

However, it is essential to acknowledge that societal awareness and discussions surrounding gaslighting and workplace dynamics have evolved over time. In recent years, there has been an increased focus on psychological well-being in the workplace, employee rights, and creating healthier work environments. This has led to greater recognition and understanding of gaslighting as a harmful behaviour that negatively impacts employees and organizations.

As conversations around mental health, workplace culture, and employee well-being continue to progress, there is a growing emphasis on addressing and preventing gaslighting behaviours in the workplace. Companies are implementing training programs, establishing clear policies, and fostering open communication to combat toxic behaviours and create more supportive and respectful work environments.

Why Do Some Managers Gaslight Workers?

There are a number of theories or reasons as to why some managers gaslight their workers. The majority of the reasons given are more excuses for the manager’s own insecurities or inability to do their job. These reasons include Power and Control, Ego and Insecurity, Fear of Losing Authority and Avoiding Accountability, thus deflecting blame and avoiding taking responsibility for actions as mistakes.

Some of the insecurities which perpetuate gaslighting have developed because of the hierarchical environment and the expectation that you must fight to climb up the corporate ladder. Once they have made it to a manager level they begin to immediately feel threatened by other competent employees nipping at their heels and trying to undermine them to protect their position of authority, especially if the manager feels out of their depth and not trained to be a manager. Gaslighting serves as a means to suppress any dissent and maintain the status quo.

Another reason given is to create a divisive environment. Here gaslighting can be used to create divisions among employees, pitting them against each other instead of uniting against common issues. This can prevent collective action and ensure that employees remain focused on internal conflicts rather than systemic problems.

Am I Being Gaslit By My Manager?

Some employers may not realise they are being gaslit by their manager or they are so used to it happening that they just accept it. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or entity seeks to make someone doubt their perceptions, memories, or reality. This can lead the victim to question their sanity and become more reliant on the manipulator.

Here are some signs that you might be experiencing gaslighting:

Consistent Denial: Your manager denies things they’ve said or done, even when you have evidence to the contrary.

Withholding Information: Your manager might withhold information that you need, making it difficult for you to do your job effectively.

Misdirection: They might divert conversations away from the topic at hand or shift blame onto you.

Contradictions: Your manager contradicts themselves frequently, confusing what’s true.

Trivializing Concerns: They downplay your concerns, making you feel like you’re overreacting or being unreasonable.

Isolation: Your manager might try to isolate you from your colleagues, friends, or other support systems, making you more reliant on them for information.

Projecting: They accuse you of behaviours that they are actually exhibiting, deflecting attention away from their actions.

Manipulative Behaviour: They use emotional manipulation, guilt, or other tactics to control your behaviour or responses.

Undermining Confidence: They might criticize your abilities, decisions, or work, causing you to doubt yourself.

If you’re experiencing these signs consistently and it’s causing you distress, it’s important to address the situation.

Handling Gaslighting By Your Manager.

Handling gaslighting by managers can be challenging, but there are strategies employees can use to protect themselves and address the situation:

Recognize the Gaslighting: The first step is to become aware of the gaslighting behaviour. Trust your instincts and validate your feelings. Gaslighting works by making you doubt yourself, so being aware of it is crucial to breaking free from its effects.

Document Incidents: Keep a record of specific instances of gaslighting, noting dates, times, and details of what happened. Having a record can be valuable if you need to address the issue formally later.

Seek Support: Talk to trusted colleagues, friends, or family about your experiences. Their validation and support can help you maintain perspective and reinforce your confidence.

Stay Calm and Composed: Respond to gaslighting with composure. Avoid becoming defensive or aggressive, as this may escalate the situation. Instead, try to remain calm and focused.

Confront the Manager (If Appropriate): If you feel safe doing so, consider having a private conversation with the manager to address the behaviour. Use “I” statements to express how you feel without accusing them directly. For example, say, “I feel discouraged when my efforts are constantly criticized without constructive feedback.”

Engage in Self-Care: Gaslighting can take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being. Engage in self-care activities to reduce stress and maintain your resilience.

Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries with the gaslighting manager. Be assertive in communicating your limits and expectations for respectful communication.

Seek Mediation or HR Involvement: If the gaslighting continues or escalates, consider seeking assistance from a neutral third party, such as HR or a mediator. They can help facilitate a constructive conversation and address the issue impartially.

Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with the company’s policies and procedures related to workplace behaviour and harassment. If the gaslighting qualifies as harassment, take appropriate steps to report it.

Consider Escalation: If the situation does not improve, you may need to escalate the matter to higher management or your company’s leadership.

Seek External Help: In extreme cases where internal resolution is not possible or safe, consider seeking legal advice or contacting relevant labour authorities.

Remember that dealing with gaslighting can be emotionally draining, so don’t hesitate to seek professional counselling or therapy to process your feelings and experiences. Your well-being is essential, and taking care of yourself is a priority.

Does Gaslighting Hurt A Company?

Gaslighting within a workplace, especially when perpetrated by a manager, can have significant negative impacts on both individual employees and the company as a whole. Here are some ways in which gaslighting can affect a company:

Decreased Employee Well-being: Gaslighting can cause emotional distress, anxiety, and even depression in employees who are targeted. This can lead to decreased job satisfaction, lower morale, and a toxic work environment.

Reduced Productivity: Employees who are constantly questioning their abilities or reality due to gaslighting may become less productive. The stress and confusion caused by gaslighting can impact their ability to focus and perform well.

High Turnover Rates: Gaslighting can drive employees to leave the company in search of a healthier work environment. High turnover rates can be costly for a company due to recruitment, training, and lost institutional knowledge.

Lack of Trust: Gaslighting erodes trust within the workplace. When employees can’t trust their managers or colleagues, it hinders effective communication, collaboration, and teamwork.

Negative Company Culture: Gaslighting sets a negative tone for the company culture. It can encourage a culture of fear, paranoia, and unhealthy competition, rather than one based on mutual respect and support.

Innovation and Creativity Suppression: A toxic environment caused by gaslighting can stifle employees’ creativity and innovation. Employees who are constantly second-guessing themselves are less likely to take risks and come up with new ideas.

Erosion of Leadership Credibility: When managers engage in gaslighting, their credibility and authority can be seriously undermined. Employees may begin to question the legitimacy of their decisions and guidance.

Legal and Reputational Risks: If gaslighting leads to significant emotional distress, it could potentially result in legal actions against the company. Moreover, if word spreads about a toxic work environment, the company’s reputation can be damaged, making it harder to attract top talent.

Decreased Employee Engagement: Gaslighting can lead to disengaged employees who are less committed to their work and the company’s goals. Engaged employees are more likely to be motivated, innovative, and contribute positively to the organization.

Loss of Diversity and Inclusion: A culture of gaslighting can drive away diverse employees who may feel particularly vulnerable to such behaviour. This can hinder efforts to build a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Gaslighting by managers on employees is a harmful and destructive practice. It erodes trust, damages the work environment, and negatively impacts both the mental well-being of employees and the overall productivity of the company. Understanding the motivations behind gaslighting can help organizations address the issue effectively and promote a healthier and more supportive workplace culture. It’s important for companies to foster a healthy and respectful work environment. Addressing gaslighting behaviour promptly and effectively is crucial to prevent these negative outcomes. Companies that prioritize employee well-being, open communication, and trust are more likely to retain talented employees, promote innovation, and maintain a positive reputation within their industry.

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