What to do if you experience gaslighting in the workplace


Marianne Stenger

Gaslighting can cause you to question your own reactions, perceptions and memories of events, and ultimately leave you feeling powerless. When it happens in the workplace, gaslighting behavior can cause you to doubt yourself and your ability to do your job.

But what exactly does gaslighting look like in a work environment? More importantly, what can you do if you suspect that you or one of your coworkers might be falling prey to this type of psychological manipulation?

How to spot gaslighting in the workplace

Gaslighting is a type of emotionally manipulative behavior that may be used by someone to undermine another person’s credibility. Although it’s most common in personal relationships, gaslighting can also occur at work, and is a form of workplace bullying.

Diversity and inclusion training can be helpful for stamping out workplace power plays and office politics, but before you can tackle gaslighting, you first need to know how to spot it.

In the workplace, gaslighting might take the form of someone repeatedly denying or contradicting things they’ve said or dismissing someone’s legitimate concerns by saying they’re being “too sensitive.” In extreme cases, the gaslighter may even resort to sabotaging someone’s work to make themselves appear more capable.

For example, gaslighting could take the form of a colleague who frequently tells you one thing in person only to deny it later on in emails that your boss has been cc’d on.

Gaslighting might also look like a manager who continually changes due dates and deadlines without sufficient notice, or fails to communicate essential information and then calls you out for not following instructions.

Dealing with gaslighting at work can destroy your confidence and lead to burnout, so if you suspect it might be happening, it’s important to tackle it as soon as possible.

Ways to stop gaslighting

What should you do if you’ve noticed repeated instances of gaslighting at work, and what role might diversity training play in tackling this behavior?

Investments in cultural diversity training can help to ensure that both employees and supervisors are aware of what gaslighting looks like, as well as where they can go for help when they run into problems.

Of course, DEI training is something that requires a longer period of time to take hold, so here are a few things you can do to tackle gaslighting in the workplace in the short term.

  • Learn the warning signs to catch it early: Learning to spot the warning signs of gaslighting will help you to recognize this harmful behavior early on and take action. Common warning signs of gaslighting include a persistent negative narrative about someone’s performance, frequent negative gossip, sarcasm or public comments, exclusion from opportunities or activities, and in extreme cases, intimidation.
  • Trust your instincts: Gaslighters are good at manipulating people and will try to discredit anyone that calls them out for their actions. But if you have a hunch that you or someone else on your team is being bullied, it’s important to trust your instincts and take action.
  • Don’t be ashamed: Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation and abuse that can eat away at your self esteem. Feeling guilt or shame about addressing a situation that’s causing you negative emotions is another sign of gaslighting. Remember that your feelings are valid and you deserve to work in an environment where you feel safe and respected.
  • Try not to react: Gaslighters will often try to provoke their victim into losing their temper or reacting in the ‘wrong’ way. So rather than reacting in the heat of the moment, take a deep breath and write down what they said or did. This will allow you to address it more calmly at a later stage.
  • Speak with a manager: The best thing to do if you suspect someone is gaslighting you or a coworker is to speak with your manager or boss who will be able to intervene. If you’ve been keeping records of their behavior, you can use them to support your complaint.
  • Reduce exposure: If you have yet to reach a long term solution, you might still be able to minimize your exposure to a gaslighter’s negative behavior. For example, is it possible to rearrange your schedule to avoid crossing paths with them? Or perhaps you could request to be transferred to another department?
  • Advocate for inclusion training: Once you’ve gathered evidence that gaslighting is taking place, you’ll be able to make a strong case for inclusion training. Diversity training in the workplace can foster a sense of inclusivity, improve conflict resolution, and ultimately lead to a more positive working environment.

Are you looking to minimize office politics and build a positive working environment? Berlitz offers cross-cultural training to help organizations support diversity in the workplace and promote cultural understanding between colleagues, clients and partners. Find out more.