How to Deal with Gaslighting at Work

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Health Assured team

28 August 2020

Gaslighting in the workplace is when an employer or employee behaves in a way that’s aimed at distorting their co-worker’s view of reality or their sanity.

This can occur in many forms. Our previous blog post highlights the signs and examples of gaslighting. In it, we identify the most common sign as lying.

For example, a gaslighter might make derogatory comments to or about a co-worker but deny ever making it when confronted.

In this piece, we’ll focus on how to deal with gaslighting. We’ll highlight the effects of gaslighting on wellbeing and office culture. We’ll then suggest some way to combat this behaviour in the workplace.

However, if you’re currently dealing with this issue at work and would like immediate support, contact the Health Assured team today on 0844 891 0352. Our experienced counsellors are on hand to guide you and support your staff.

Effects of gaslighting on employee wellbeing and office culture

The effects of gaslighting can be detrimental to the wellbeing of your staff. This can then lead to negative effects on the business.

In terms of mental health, gaslighting is said to induce cognitive dissonance and self-doubt in the employee on the receiving end. This usually involves conflicting attitudes, beliefs and behaviours and questioning of one’s memory, perception or judgment.

As a result of this, you’ll potentially see:

  • Increase in absenteeism
  • Reduced productivity
  • Increased anxiety about going to work
  • A decline in performance quality
  • An inability to accept genuine criticism
  • Mood swings, etc.

All the above creates a culture of discomfort and distrust in an environment that should aim to encourage trust and support.

Before getting into how to deal with a gaslighter, it’s important to be able to identify one.

When we imagine a bully, we imagine someone who goes around physically harassing people and making their life unbearable. However, gaslighters, especially in the workplace will amongst other things:

  • Tell blatant lies
  • Deny they ever said something they did
  • Work over a long period to wear you down
  • Project their insecurities
  • Offer positive reinforcement occasionally to confuse you

How to combat gaslighting

It’s important to know how to approach a gaslighting employee at work. There are several things you can do to address this issue.

Firstly, you’ll need to consider an HR policy on gaslighting. It should reflect your business values and highlight its commitment to promoting positive relationships between co-workers.

Remember you have a duty of care to your staff. Your duty extends to taking reasonable steps to prevent victimisation, harassment and bullying. As gaslighting behaviour constitutes bullying, it should be covered under harassment and bullying policy.

This policy should highlight the complaints process as well as the remedy for resolving it. Your staff should be aware of the organisation’s stance on this behaviour as well as the implications for not adhering to company policy. This includes verbal warnings and other disciplinary measures.

Consider including it in contracts, as part of the onboarding process, on the company intranet and if possible, around the office.

You should also consider training managers and supervisors to recognise and support staff. While it can be challenging to manage gaslighting behaviour, with training, they can learn how to deal with someone who gaslights and how to support the victims of gaslighting.

Other tips on how to deal with gaslighting abuse include:

  • Training managers: Managers need to be able to understand gaslighting and the severity of it. If they don’t know what it is, they won’t be able to identify it, leaving it to fester under their noses. By training them to recognise the signs of a gaslighting and its effects on their victim.
  • Documentation: Ensure employees being gaslighted document every evidence of it.
  • Schedule one-to-one: When you’re presented with evidence and after reviewing it, you can then schedule a meeting with the gaslighter to raise the issue with them. Rather can confronting them, remember to stay positive and remind them of the benefits of maintaining a positive relationship with their co-workers.
  • Never ignore it: While it might be easy to prove and hence easy to brush off, it should never be ignored. It can leave the victim lacking in self-confidence and lead to a demoralised workforce.

Remember, by recognising and learning how to deal with someone who gaslights, you’ll be able to address other issues at work. This includes those relating to:

  • Performance
  • Productivity
  • Negative or toxic workplace culture
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression, etc. 

Remember, by recognising how to deal with someone who gaslights, you’ll be able to address issues relating to performance, productivity, negative or toxic workplace culture, stress, anxiety and even depression.

Expert Advice

If you’d like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on 0844 891 0352

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