How to deal with gaslighting at work (and examples in 2024)

a woman looks confused and doubts herself experienced gaslighting at work

No one can get under your skin quite like a gaslighter. Their behavior is sneaky and maddening. And when it happens in a professional context, it’s tough to respond in a way that doesn’t undermine your credibility or jeopardize your career.

Before you think you’re alone in all of this, realize that gaslighting at work is a prevalent problem. About 58% of people say they've experienced it, according to an MHR Twitter poll1. As powerless as gaslighting can make you feel, there are some things you can do to take back control of the situation.

But first, let’s go over the definition of gaslighting and some signs it may be happening to you.

Table of contents
What is gaslighting at work?
What are some examples of gaslighting at work?
Develop your personal power and stop gaslighting at work
The gaslighter’s vocabulary: common phrases to watch out for
But what if it’s unintentional? Is it still gaslighting?
How to respond to gaslighting at work
How to prove gaslighting at work
How to recover from gaslighting at work
Say goodbye to gaslighting at work

What is gaslighting at work?

Gaslighting at work is defined by the American Psychological Association as “to manipulate another person into doubting his or her perceptions, experiences, or understanding of events2.”

Signs of gaslighting at work include:

  • coworkers invalidating something you’ve just said,
  • questioning the veracity of your statements, or
  • sabotaging your efforts, providing negative feedback, and finding supposed flaws in your work.

Need an example? A gaslighting boss might do sneaky things to ensure you fail at work. But it will be almost impossible to prove it’s intentional. He might “forget” to send you a notice about a major meeting, and when you fail to show up, he might say, “But didn’t you get the memo? I sent it to you a week ago. You’ve been really forgetful lately.” You did not get the memo. Maybe you did, and you just forgot? Maybe it got marked as spam? You rack your brain, search your inbox and check your junk folder-but there is no memo (because he never sent one to you). Or maybe he did, and the email just didn’t come through? Tech mishaps happen sometimes. Or maybe he mistyped your email address? We all make mistakes.

This is the nature of gaslighting: the constant wondering, the second-guessing. But you’ll know it’s gaslighting when such situations frequently happen, not just once or twice. Gaslighting can be so subtle that it can make you question your own sense of reality, which makes it so damaging.

Handling gaslighting at work can be particularly pernicious and difficult to prove. Due to its very nature, it will have you doubting that what’s happening to you is true.

What are some examples of gaslighting at work?

So are you being gaslighted at work? Many victims of gaslighting tactics fail to recognize it because they’re being manipulated to experience self-doubt. But here are some signs that you may be a target of psychological manipulation:

1. You’re constantly questioning your perception.

“This is the most apparent sign of gaslighting,” says licensed psychologist Dr. Elizabeth  Lombardo3. “If you're overwhelmed with self-doubt after a meeting with a coworker and find yourself second-guessing your version of events, you're probably being gaslighted.”

2. The gaslighter tells you you’re making mistakes when you know you aren’t.

You're competent. You’re good at your job. So why is it that, lately, you’re being told that you’ve made multiple errors when you’re pretty sure you haven’t? That could be the gaslighter’s manipulation tactic. Especially if they envy your success.

Rolf Bax, chief human resources officer at Resume.io, has witnessed this6. “I have seen a situation in which a new manager comes in, feels threatened by a star team member and sets about convincing the employee that they are making more errors than they are and shooting down and poking holes in all of their contributions,” he says.

3. They tell you they “never said that,”- but you know they did.

This is a common gaslighting behavior. They’ll deny saying something that they definitely said. In fact, they’ll say, “I never said that,” so vehemently that you’ll start believing them and doubting yourself.

4. They praise you in private but criticize you in front of the rest of the team (or vice versa).

Remember, the gaslighter is trying to make you doubt your perception of reality. So they will twist things so that you never know which version to believe. They can do this by being two-faced:

  • They act friendly to you, but they berate you when you’re not around.
  • Or they berate you when no one else is around but praise you when others are there to witness.

The goal of this manipulative tactic is to create confusion so you question what's true.

5. You’re frequently left out of important meetings and decision-making conversations.

This is another major form of workplace harassment. The gaslighter will leave you out of important meetings, conversations, and projects without a clear reason. When you try to find out why you weren’t included, they’ll make you think you’re overreacting. Or that you were mistaken and didn’t need to be included in that conversation. Even when something is key to your work, they’ll convince you it’s not.

If you find that you’re constantly being excluded, that might be a sign that you’re being gaslighted.

6. When you try to address issues, the gaslighter dismisses your concerns.

When you bring a concern to a gaslighter, they’ll dismiss it (especially if it’s an issue they caused). This is yet another way they can manipulate you into believing you’re the problem.

For example, you might notice that the suspected gaslighter frequently leaves you out of team email threads relevant to your work. When you ask them about it, they’ll say they didn’t mean to do it or that you’re being too hard on them for what was an honest mistake.

7. Other people are starting to notice how the gaslighter treats you.

This is a big one. When gaslighting goes on long enough, your colleagues will probably notice that you’re being treated differently. Now, they may or may not say anything or help you. It’s up to you to find a trusted colleague who will be honest with you about what they’re noticing.

8. You keep getting bumped to lesser, insignificant projects.

More than just being excluded, you might find that you’re being given “busy work.” Those meaningless projects keep you occupied but have no real impact. This could be an effort to undermine your authority and sabotage your productivity. So that when performance reviews come around, you have no results to show because you were never given any meaningful work.

9. The gaslighter manipulates situations to embarrass you.

For example, the gaslighter might intentionally “forget” to email you about a meeting. So naturally, you don’t show up because you didn’t know about it. Then, they will reprimand you for missing the meeting.

10. No matter how hard you try, your work is never “good enough.”

As mentioned earlier, the gaslighter will find errors, even when they aren’t there. But they also will act unimpressed, or even disappointed, in even your best work. They do this to try to erode your self-esteem and make you doubt your ability to do your job.

Develop your personal power and stop gaslighting at work

Gaslighting is a damaging experience. It can leave you feeling powerless and questioning your own sanity at work. However, developing your personal power can help you regain control.

The F4S platform provides an assessment to help employees understand personal motivations. By inviting your team to take the assessment too, you can learn about different work and communication styles. This will help improve teamwork and tackle gaslighting.

F4S team workplace assessment can stop gaslighting

Setting personal goals in the F4S platform allows AI Coach Marlee to offer personalized recommendations. For example, the Personal Power program can boost your confidence. It's also great for addressing gaslighting behaviors effectively.

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The gaslighter’s vocabulary: common phrases to watch out for

Gaslighters use vocabulary that invalidates your feelings and concerns. This can make you feel small and ineffective. They might use phrases such as:

  • “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
  • “I never said that.”
  • “That’s not what happened.”
  • “You’re crazy.”
  • “You’re misinterpreting everything.”
  • “You’re too sensitive.”
  • “You’re reading too much into this.”

But what if it’s unintentional? Is it still gaslighting?

Not all gaslighting situations are intentional. Sometimes, the gaslighter might not realize what they’re doing. If you suspect their behavior is unintentional, and you trust this person, you can have a one-on-one conversation about what you’ve noticed. Do not accuse. Simply share what you think has been happening, how it’s been negatively affecting you, and what you’d like to see going forward. Give them a chance to explain themselves and amend their ways.

Whether the gaslighting was intentional or not, the impact is what matters here. Even if they didn’t mean to frequently exclude you from meetings or invalidate your feelings, it still harms you. It needs to be addressed so you can perform your best at work.

How to respond to gaslighting at work

Responding to gaslighting at work can be challenging. Preparing before confronting the situation is essential. Preparing yourself mentally to respond to gaslighting in the moment can help you maintain your composure. It can also help you assert your perspective effectively.

Here are some responses you can rehearse and prepare:

  • "I understand that you have a different perspective, but my experience and feelings are valid."
  • "I'm not comfortable with the way you're speaking to me. Please treat me with respect."
  • "Let's stick to the facts and avoid personal attacks."
  • "I need a break to gather my thoughts and emotions before continuing this conversation."
  • "I don't appreciate you questioning my intelligence or sanity. It's inappropriate and unprofessional."
  • "I'm not going to engage in this conversation anymore because it's not productive."
  • "If we can't communicate effectively and respectfully, I suggest we involve a neutral third party."

When dealing with gaslighting at work, it's essential to recognize the abusive behavior and its impact on you. Here are eight strategies to help you regain control and protect your well-being at work.

1. Document everything

When communicating with a gaslighter, the preferred method is email. You want written documentation. That way, when they undoubtedly question your memory of their words, you have concrete evidence to show them that your memory is just fine.

You also might need this documentation to prove your case to Human Resources so they can take action.

2. Ask someone else for feedback

The key piece here is that you must find someone you can trust who is not on the side of the gaslighter. This may be difficult, particularly if your entire workplace is toxic.

Is the gaslighter frequently finding “flaws” in your work? Ask someone else to review these supposed errors.

Is the gaslighter denying excluding you from important meetings? Ask someone who was at these meetings if you were included in the email invitations.

Is the gaslighter denying ever criticizing you in front of the team? Ask someone who witnessed this criticism when you weren’t around.

3. Don’t bother confronting the gaslighter

Many articles about gaslighting at work encourage you to confront the potential gaslighter. Still, I don’t think that’s wise (unless you truly think the behavior is unintentional) because it’s unlikely a gaslighter will admit to the bad behavior.

Take these words of wisdom from therapist Alyssa Mancao, a licensed clinical social worker:

“The best way to outsmart a gaslighter is to disengage,” she writes for mindbodygreen5.  “You can show up to the discussion with a mountain of evidence, videos, recordings, and more, and a gaslighting person will still find a way to deflect, minimize, or deny. It is more worth it to walk away with your perception intact.”

4. Bring it to HR or management

Your manager (as long as your manager isn’t the gaslighter) and HR will best know how to handle a gaslighter. Bring the evidence you’ve gathered and let them serve as the third party between you and your gaslighter to resolve the issue. They should have harassment policies in place to keep you safe.

5. Avoid the gaslighter as much as possible

Sometimes, complete avoidance is impossible, such as in the case of a gaslighting boss. Definitely avoid alone time with the gaslighter, as any retelling after that will be your word against theirs. Try to involve at least one reliable witness each time you meet with the gaslighter in person.

Also, avoid taking on projects where you will have to work with them. And don’t fall for any of their attempts to develop a more personal relationship with you.

6. Tap into your personal power

Gaslighting makes you question your sanity and your abilities. It can make you feel powerless and incompetent. To stand up to a gaslighter, you need to remember that you are capable.

As mentioned earlier, you can strengthen your personal power with our free online coaching program. This can help you gain the confidence and assertiveness to stand firm when the gaslighter tries to undermine your authority.

7. Protect your mental health

Gaslighting is psychological abuse. And as such, it can wreck your mental health by lowering your self-esteem and self-confidence. Taking time away from chronic gaslighting is crucial to recharge yourself and keep your mind sharp. Seek support from mental health professionals if you need it. If your employer offers an AEP this can be a great place to get started.

8. Leave if you can

Gaslighting can be the symptom of a toxic environment, and that’s not something you’re going to fix on your own. The stress of dealing with toxic behaviors at work can take a toll on your mental stability and physical health. This can leave you feeling drained and unhappy in your personal life.

If possible, consider leaving the workplace and finding one that values your well-being. This may involve:

  • seeking new job opportunities,
  • networking with professionals in your field, or
  • pursuing additional education or training to expand your skill set.

Leaving a job can be daunting, but it's crucial to prioritize your health and safety in the workplace. Remember that you deserve to work in an environment that is conducive to your well-being.

So if you can, get out and move on to a workplace that values your well-being.

How to prove gaslighting at work

Dealing with gaslighting at work can be challenging, and proving it can be even more difficult. If you need to take evidence of gaslighting to leadership, here are a few practical tips and strategies. These can help you document and report gaslighting behavior effectively.

  1. Recognize the behavior: It's essential to identify gaslighting when it's happening. Record instances when you feel like someone is trying to manipulate or deceive you. Write down the incident's date, time, and details as accurately as possible.
  2. Gather evidence: If you want to report gaslighting to your people leaders, you need to provide evidence. Evidence can be in the form of emails, texts, witness accounts, or anything else that supports your claims. Keep paper trails of everything related to the incident.
  3. Document your emotional state: Gaslighting can significantly impact your mental and emotional well-being. Document how you're feeling and the effects of gaslighting on you. This can be valuable evidence if you need your employer's or outside resources' support.
  4. Approach your people leaders: Schedule a meeting to discuss the gaslighting behavior. Bring along your evidence and emotional documentation. Be clear and concise in explaining the situation, and focus on the facts. Explain how the behavior is impacting you and the workplace.
  5. Be prepared for questions: Your people leaders may ask for more information or evidence. Be prepared to answer questions like, "Can you give us more details?" or "Do you have any other evidence?" Be honest and transparent in your responses.

Remember, gaslighting is a form of abuse. Don't blame yourself for someone else's behavior. Focus on caring for yourself and finding a safe and healthy work environment.

How to recover from gaslighting at work

Gaslighting at work can significantly impact your mental and emotional wellbeing. The first step towards recovery is acknowledging that you are being gaslit and that it is not your fault.

If you have been experiencing gaslighting at work, seeking support is important to help you recover. You can seek help in many areas, such as apps, chatbots, and personal coaches. These resources can provide you with guidance, support, and strategies. They can help you regain your confidence and sense of self-worth. Consider seeking professional help if the effects of gaslighting linger.

If you are a leader who's been accused of gaslighting, reflect on your leadership style. Do employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions without fear of retribution?

You can foster psychological safety by being vulnerable and open with your employees. Doing so makes you more relatable to your employees.

Vulnerable leaders will respond in a human way if told they've been gaslighting. They will not deny or dismiss the employee's experiences.

With time, support, and self-care, it is possible to recover from gaslighting and regain a sense of confidence and self-worth.

Say goodbye to gaslighting at work

Dealing with gaslighting at work is understandably frustrating. By following the tips in this article, you can take control back from your workplace gaslighter. So go ahead, stand in your power and watch your career and wellbeing thrive.

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Answer the questions in our assessment to learn about your motivations and blind spots. You can compare your results with successful entrepreneurs and business leaders on our real time dashboard. You'll have a better understanding of how to develop your personal power.

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1. https://mhrglobal.com/uk/en/news/gaslighting-widespread-in-the-uk-workplace

2. https://dictionary.apa.org/gaslight

3. https://elizabethlombardo.com/

4. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/gaslighting-work-darren-walley/

5.https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-to-deal-with-gaslighting

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