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Gaslighting in the Workplace

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In the realm of workplaces, where collaboration and personal growth interweave, an unfortunate reality exists – the presence of gaslighting. Gaslighting, a psychological manipulation technique, can sow seeds of doubt in individuals about their perceptions, memories, and even their sanity. This malicious behavior, if left unchecked, can corrode mental well-being, work performance, and overall happiness. This blog delves into the concept of gaslighting at work, illustrating instances, and proposes strategies to both identify and respond to these manipulative tactics.

Understanding Gaslighting

Gaslighting, a term derived from the 1938 play “Gas Light,” refers to the manipulation of someone into questioning their reality. In a workplace context, gaslighting involves subtle tactics that erode self-confidence and distort perceptions. Those who engage in gaslighting aim to seize control and wield power.

Examples of Gaslighting in the Workplace

let’s delve deeper into the gaslighting definition and examples in the workplace to provide a clearer understanding of how this manipulation tactic can manifest:

Undermining Projects:

Imagine you’re working on a crucial project within your team. A colleague consistently withholds important information related to the project’s success. During team meetings, they subtly undermine your efforts by making comments that belittle your contributions or suggest that you’re not fully informed about the project’s details. When you approach them to clarify or express your concerns, they gaslight you by insisting that you must have misunderstood the information shared earlier, making you doubt your grasp on the situation.

Shifting Blame:

Gaslighting in the workplace can look like your supervisor assigns you a new project and provides guidelines for its completion. After dedicating time and effort to meet these expectations, you later discover that some elements were overlooked due to incomplete instructions. When you bring this up to your supervisor, they flatly deny ever assigning you the project guidelines in the first place. They insinuate that you must have misunderstood or assumed, causing you to question your memory and competence.

Personal Attacks:

A form of gaslighting at work is when a coworker wraps personal attacks in the guise of constructive criticism. For instance, during a team meeting, they comment on your attire, work style, or the way you communicate ideas. When you express discomfort or assert that their comments are hurtful, they downplay their words by gaslighting you, saying that you’re being overly sensitive and unable to handle feedback. This leaves you feeling like your reactions are disproportionate, even though the comments were genuinely hurtful.

Systematic Undermining:

In a brainstorming session, a coworker constantly talks over you, dismisses your ideas, and even claims credit for concepts you’ve shared. When you address this behavior and assert that you deserve credit for your contributions, they counter by accusing you of lacking a sense of humor or being too uptight about work dynamics.This type of gaslighting at work is known as systematic undermining will make you doubt your own professionalism.

Selective Amnesia:

During your annual performance review, your manager enthusiastically discusses your achievements and assures you of an upcoming promotion. However, when you follow up on the promised promotion later, your manager seems baffled and denies any memory of the conversation; this is an example of gaslighting at work. They brush it off as a misunderstanding, causing you to question whether you accurately recall the details of the conversation.

Isolation Strategies:

Gaslighting at work can look like a coworker spreading false rumors about you that cast you in a negative light among your colleagues. These rumors lead to colleagues distancing themselves from you, and you start to feel isolated within the team. When you confront the coworker about their actions, they vehemently deny any involvement and attribute your feelings of isolation to your own paranoia, leaving you feeling isolated and uncertain about who to trust.

Recognizing Gaslighting Behavior

Recognizing gaslighting behavior is essential for protecting your mental and emotional well-being in the workplace. Here’s a more detailed exploration of how to identify gaslighting tactics:

Persistent Denial:

Gaslighters consistently deny their actions or the reality of situations, even in the face of clear evidence. For instance, if you have email documentation of a conversation or a decision, but a colleague vehemently denies the conversation ever occurred, this denial is a red flag.


Gaslighters often project their own behaviors onto others to divert attention from their actions. If a coworker accuses you of being untrustworthy or dishonest without any basis, it might be an attempt to deflect from their own untrustworthy actions of gaslighting at work.


Gaslighters downplay their harmful behaviors and the impact they have on you. They might say things like, “You’re making a big deal out of nothing” or “You’re too sensitive.” This tactic aims to make you question the validity of your feelings and perceptions.

Confusion Inducing:

Gaslighters purposefully introduce conflicting information or subtly alter details to create confusion. This confusion can make you doubt your own memory and understanding of events, leading you to feel disoriented and unsure of what really happened.


Gaslighters often isolate their victims by turning others against them. They might spread lies, rumors, or gossip about you to damage your reputation and credibility. If you notice colleagues treating you differently without apparent reason, it could be a sign of gaslighting.

Manipulating Facts:

Gaslighters manipulate facts and twist reality to suit their narrative. They might distort the sequence of events, making it difficult for you to piece together the truth. Their goal is to make you doubt your memory and perceptions by gaslighting a person.

Selective Memory:

Gaslighters conveniently forget or selectively remember events to suit their interests. They might deny making promises, offering praise, or even engaging in hurtful behavior, leaving you questioning whether your memory is accurate.

Creating Doubt:

Gaslighters consistently undermine your confidence in your judgment. They might use phrases like, “Are you sure?” or “You’re imagining things” to plant seeds of doubt in your mind about your own observations.

Emotional Manipulation:

Gaslighters exploit your emotions to make you doubt yourself. They might play the victim or use guilt-tripping tactics to divert attention away from their own actions.

Addressing and Overcoming Gaslighting

Addressing and overcoming gaslighting in the workplace requires a combination of self-empowerment, communication skills, and support systems. Here’s a more detailed exploration of how to effectively deal with gaslighting:

Trust Your Intuition:

Your gut feelings are valuable indicators. If something feels off or contradictory in your interactions with someone, trust your instincts. Self-awareness is your first line of defense against gaslighting.

Document Thoroughly:

Maintain a detailed record of conversations, emails, and incidents involving the gaslighter. Having tangible evidence can help you remain grounded in your reality and provide concrete support if you need to address the situation formally.

Seek Support:

Talk to trusted colleagues, friends, mentors, or even family members about your experiences. Sharing your concerns can provide validation, an external perspective, and emotional support. They can help you see through the manipulation tactics.

Confront Calmly:

If you decide to address the gaslighter, do so with confidence and composure. Use “I” statements to express your feelings and concerns without blaming or accusing. For example, say, “I felt hurt when you made that comment during the meeting.”

Establish Boundaries:

Clearly articulate your boundaries with the gaslighter. Politely but assertively communicate what behaviors are unacceptable to you. This helps set the tone for how you expect to be treated.

Involve Authority:

If the gaslighting persists and impacts your well-being or job performance, consider involving higher authorities. Speak to your supervisor, HR department, or another appropriate figure within the organization to address the issue professionally.

Self-Care is Crucial:

Gaslighting can take a toll on your mental and emotional health. Prioritize self-care activities that help you stay grounded and resilient. Engage in hobbies, exercise, mindfulness, or spending time with loved ones to maintain your emotional well-being.

Practice Assertiveness:

Develop assertiveness skills to confidently express your thoughts, feelings, and boundaries. This can help you navigate conversations with the gaslighter and other colleagues more effectively.

Focus on Personal Growth:

While dealing with gaslighting is challenging, view it as an opportunity for personal growth. Learning to stand up for yourself and navigate difficult situations can enhance your resilience and communication skills.

Consider Professional Help:

If the gaslighting has severely impacted your mental health, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. A therapist can help you process your feelings, build coping strategies, and regain a sense of empowerment.

Create a Supportive Network:

Build a network of colleagues who share your concerns about the gaslighting behavior. Collaborate with them to address the situation collectively, fostering a supportive environment.

Know When to Walk Away:

In some cases, the best solution may be to distance yourself from the gaslighter. If the toxic behavior continues and negatively impacts your well-being, consider whether staying in that environment is worth the toll it takes on you.

New York psychotherapy can help if you are experiencing gaslighting at work!

If you’re navigating gaslighting in the workplace, work with a NYC psychotherapist at Uncover Mental Health Counseling. Our team of New York psychotherapists can help you recognize signs of gaslighting and process your experience of gaslighting at work. Start your healing journey now. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Contact us at Uncover Mental Health Counseling to schedule a free consultation call.
  2. Meet with a NYC therapist for your initial session.

Start receiving the support you need to learn skills to navigate gaslighting at work.

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