Gaslighting is commonly associated with romantic relationships. However, this form of abuse is present everywhere, especially at work. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, gaslighting involves psychological manipulation and/or emotional abuse to exert power or gain control. I did not realize gaslighting at work existed until this summer. I found myself in a very bizarre situation where I was constantly subjected to manipulation and found myself under immense stress and self-doubt.
I worked at an organization that I believed would value and empower me because that is what the organization claims to promote. Just after a few weeks though, I began doubting the quality of my work and felt terrible most of the time. Gaslighters will have you constantly question your self-worth to prevent you from succeeding. It is up to you to set boundaries to protect your mental health and sense of self-worth. Always remember nothing is more important than your mental health.
I remember feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work I had. I was struggling to strike a balance between work and other commitments. It is commonplace to feel like that once in a while, isn’t it? Well apparently for gaslighters there is no room for validation or empathy. I communicated my feelings to my supervisor who instantly dismissed my feelings and expressed her dissatisfaction with me. It got to a point where I doubted my own sanity. I almost accepted that I was at fault and perhaps incapable of handling tasks effectively.
However, I was fortunate enough to have supportive colleagues who stepped in to rescue me from a toxic situation. Gaslighters will negate your feelings and opinions and instead insist that their approach is always correct.
I did not let this experience define me and neither should you.
It is difficult to identify gaslighters or gaslighting but if you have ever doubted your capabilities or sanity at work then you have probably been a victim of gaslighting. Gaslighters are very smart! They tend to pass on judgments and passive-aggressive comments under the guise of well-intentioned feedback or support.
Gaslighting is more frequent at work because it is a competitive environment and everyone just wants to excel. It is, however, also underreported because the victim usually ends up thinking it is his or her fault. Working with a gaslighting boss or colleagues can become demeaning and undermine your self-confidence. It aids negativity, which can seep into your personal life as well as push you out of your preferred career.
Every once in a while, it is alright for your boss or colleague to disagree with you. But if it occurs recurrently and you find yourself second-guessing your choices all the time, you are probably being gaslighted. Confusing you makes them feel correct. They may even drop back-handed compliments to maintain an upper hand.
I personally believe people that people gaslight at work due to a lack of self-confidence and assurance. Undermining other people’s credibility reduces their chances of getting ahead. This in turn makes the gaslighter feel in control or powerful. It has been proven by research that gaslighters tend to have low self-esteem. Their behaviors make them assume a sense of power or control.
In order to ascertain whether you are being gaslighted or not look out for recurrent behavioral patterns that are confusing you. If you constantly find yourself perplexed and doubt your abilities, you are being gaslighted – trust your instincts. Do not allow your boss or colleagues’ behavior to take over you.
Sometimes speaking to a trusted colleague can help. I was lucky enough to have trust-worthy and supportive colleagues that I vented out to. They stepped in to make sure I was doing alright and reminded me that my work was valued.
There is little conversation about gaslighting at work but it is extremely prevalent and dangerous. It can demotivate people and push them out of their chosen careers. It is important that you figure out whether or not you are being gaslighted. Once you are sure, try to keep a record of all your interactions with the gaslighter. Take screenshots of emails and messages. That is what I did! This is especially important if you plan to report the case to your management or HR.
Always remember nothing is more important than your mental health.
In my experience, a confrontation with the gaslighter never goes well. They will not listen to you and instead throw unwarranted arguments at you. It is best to get support from a management team or HR. It was difficult for me to get any form of help because my gaslighter was at the very top. Albeit, it was a testing experience but I held my ground. I did not let this experience define me and neither should you.
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