Signs and Examples of gaslighting

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Health Assured team

22 March 2019

The term ‘gaslighting’ derives from the 1944 movie Gaslight. It’s behaviour by one person aimed at distorting another individual’s view of their reality or sanity.

This article explores signs and the causes of this type of behaviour.

We’ll also provide you with some gaslighting examples at work to help you identify when staff are experiencing it.

For further reference, our previous post touches on stonewalling and gaslighting and includes tips for dealing with them.

Signs of gaslighting at work

The most common sign of gaslighting in the workplace is lying.

According to Psychology Today, a gaslighter will tell blatant lies in order to set precedent for future behaviour. Once this instance is set, the victim is no longer able to tell what’s true or not. This can trigger self-doubt.

Other gaslighting signs include denying they said something when they did (or vice versa), using information about a person as ammunition, criticising their actions, work, words and anything else they can pick up on.

They also tend to wear their victim down over time. It’s not something that can be done in a day or two, gaslighting behaviour at work happens slowly and over a long period. They draw in their victim in with regular lies and unkind comments, slowly tearing at their self-esteem and self-worth.

While there’re many gaslighting tactics, the most common sign is that the victim will notice they’re experiencing an increase in self-doubt.

Signs of a person who might be a target of emotional gaslighting include:

  • Apologising often.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Feeling isolated from work colleagues.
  • Feeling more anxious or less confident or like they’re doing everything wrong.

Examples of gaslighting

While it’s difficult to pinpoint specific gaslighting examples at work, there are some characteristics that make it easier to spot.

One of these gaslighting behaviour examples is when they make a derogatory comment to the victim and then lie about making the statement.

For example, an employee tells a colleague the deadline for a project was moved. And then when questioned about it later insist they never said it.

They may also accuse other employees of ‘being irrational’ or ‘overacting’ to dismiss their emotions. Not only does this deflect the gaslighter’s responsibility, but it also trivialises the victim’s feelings.

Although individually these examples might not sound like much. When combined together over a long period of time it can begin to have detrimental effects on an employee’s mental wellbeing.

Other examples include hiding someone’s belonging or moving their equipment when they’re away from their desk. Or being left out of important email chains ‘accidentally’.

Instances such as these lead to self-doubt which can, in turn, lead to depression and anxiety at the thought of coming into work.

How to respond to gaslighting behaviour

If you recognise any of the gaslighting behaviour examples listed above and believe an employee is being gaslit at work here are some things you can do.

Documentation: The psychological behaviour is a form of harassment the Equality Act 2010 protects employees against. It’s important to document every instance a staff member felt harassed. If their job requires regular communication with the gaslighter, they can limit such communication to written channels. That way, they’re able to present a hard copy of communications if requested by employers or an employment tribunal.

Educate employees: Gaslighters are good at slow manipulative behaviour, it’s worth educating yourself and your staff on how to identify their tactics. The more you know about them the faster you’ll be able to spot them. Make sure employees are familiar with the legislation surrounding harassment in the workplace. They should also be aware of your company’s policy on bullying and harassment—as well as the possible repercussions.

Avoid direct confrontation: When facing confrontations, gaslighters are likely to respond with personal attacks. Instead of confronting them directly, consider bringing up the issue with your HR department. They’d be in a better position to address the issue and conduct a mediation if it’s needed.

If you’d like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on: 0844 892 2493

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