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Gaslighting in the workplace

Have you ever…

  • Felt as though you have been made to feel as though you are ‘wrong’ and someone else is always ‘right’?
  • Or maybe you have voiced your concern about something, only to have it put back on you as something you need to develop.
  • Someone may even speak to you with utter certainty in a way that makes you feel as though your ideas aren’t relevant, or of value. 
  • You may even be constantly second guessing yourself – am I too sensitive, am I a good enough employee, you are always apologising, and despite being in a great job, you can’t understand why you aren’t happier. 
  • Perhaps you frequently make excuses about the way people treat you.
  • Maybe you know something’s wrong with your interactions with someone, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.
  • Or you have trouble making simple decisions, you lose your confidence, or you are constantly being told you are doing something wrong, or need to ‘fix’ something about yourself or your work.
  • Maybe you feel as though someone is trying to undermine you.
  • You may even be told that your reality is not your reality.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that causes you to doubt your own sanity, perception of reality or memories.

So what phrases might you hear if you are experiencing gaslighting?

  • You’re so sensitive.
  • You’re just being paranoid.
  • I was joking.
  • You’re making that up.
  • It’s no big deal.
  • You’re totally stressed, that’s what it is.
  • Can you hear yourself?
  • You’re overreacting.

What effect might gaslighting have on you?

  • It builds up over time – Like a lobster in water and it doesn’t turn colour immediately; it’s a slow boil.
  • You begin to second guess yourself and you lose confidence
  • Maybe you stand in someone else’s shoes a little too much (over empathising) and are able to see what they mean at the expense of your own feelings.

What drives gaslighting behaviour?
The motivation from the gaslighter is often “I’m feeling off balance”, or “I have been challenged about something that I don’t want to deal with, or I find uncomfortable”. It’s about someone wanting to take the power back at your expense, or control the moment. They insist you join their perception of reality, at the expense of your own feelings or experiences. 

They turn it on you – it’s about you being sensitive, maybe you need time off. Perhaps you need to manage your time better.

How do we manage gaslighting?
  1. Recognise and name it.
  2. Seek help
  3. Begin to take steps to stop it, or to get out of the situation/relationship. Set limits; you can’t control anyone else’s behaviour, but you can control your own.

Recognise and name it:
Identify the problem – write down the conversation, so you can take an objective look at it. Where is the conversation veering off from a back and forth, to it becoming something about you. Write down also how it made you feel. Permission to feel all your feelings. 

Recognising and regulating your feelings is the way to stop, control or keep gaslighting from occurring.
The knowledge and practice of emotional awareness and self-regulation is the antidote to gaslighting.

Seek help
Have compassion for yourself and ask for social support from a friend/close family member/union support person.

Begin to take steps to stop it

Some pre-emptive steps include learning skills to regulate the emotions you might or may be likely to have where someone is trying to tell you your reality is not your reality is vital.

Being able to take a deep breath and observe their behaviour whilst regulating your emotions in that moment is what we can learn (with practice) to do.

It’s really hard to hold onto your reality and integrity in this moment.

It’s really hard to manage your feelings.

You may be fearful of losing your job.

Perhaps you fear abandonment from someone close to you.

You may risk losing a friendship

Maybe you are fearful of rocking the boat.

When you don’t manage these feelings, gaslighting behaviour can engulf and overpower you.

When you are having a feeling of:

  • I’m uncomfortable
  • I’m feeling manipulated
  • I’m feeling attacked.

Stop the conversation. Say: 

“I need to take a break from this conversation right now”. Or 

“I’m not feeling comfortable with where this conversation is heading. I would like to circle back to this tomorrow/at a later date”.

Re-route the conversation back to the original conversation.

Focus on your feelings instead of who’s right or wrong

And if all else fails, you also have to be willing to leave if the situation doesn’t get better. 

Go well this week

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