You might be being gaslighted at work, if you notice that your coworker makes a big deal about something that you may or may not be doing, on the job, but at the company meeting, they brag about how great you are at your job. When you ask them why they made a big deal before, but it doesn’t seem to be a big deal now, they may respond that you simply misunderstood their earlier reaction.
You might be being gaslighted at work, if your boss gives you more and more responsibilities, telling you what a great job you are doing. When you finally get up the nerve to ask for a raise, s/he denies your request, “because it’s not in the budget”. Yet, soon after, you find out that another coworker has been granted a raise, instead. When you ask your boss why, you are told, “Well, So-and-So has been working so hard, lately.”
You might be being gaslighted at work, if whenever you pick up the slack for your coworker, they are polite and respectful. But, the time or two, that you decline to help them, due to your already busy schedule, they suddenly turn rude and disrespectful. At the same time, they are continuing to be polite and respectful to others, in your presence and may even comment, to others, that YOU are the one being rude to them (because you couldn’t/wouldn’t help them, regardless of your actual demeanor).
The above examples are just a small sampling of what gaslighting may look like, on the job. These examples are derived from my personal experiences.
Just like with scapegoating, you may not notice it right away. Since gaslighting is a form of conditioning (it’s meant to condition you to behave in a certain way, without you realizing that you have been trained).
For instance, if you have a coworker that blows up when you do something that they dislike, for instance, you do a certain task contrary to the way they prefer, then whenever that individual is around, you may work harder to do that task “their way”, to keep the peace (even if there is no “right or wrong” way to get the task done).
Because you love your job, despite your boss never offering you a raise or a promotion, you continue to go above and beyond in your duties. You accept their gracious praise, but you never, again ask for a raise, because s/he always seems to make a point of remarking, unprompted, how s/he “would like to give you a raise, but it’s just not in the budget”.
In order to prove that you are a team player and to keep the peace, you may pick up the slack, at the request of your coworker, more often than you would prefer, so that you can get through your work day, with as little unpleasantness, as possible and so that you are not seen as rude by other staff or management.
Gaslighting, on the job, just like scapegoating (link), is very difficult to prove. It’s likely that you are not the only target (if someone is manipulating you, they are likely manipulating others, as well).
If you feel like you are being gaslighted, it is recommended that you:
1) Document, document, document! When you begin to feel like you are being manipulated or you notice a pattern of behavior on the part of certain individuals that you work with, write down every incident that you believe may provide evidence, if you determine to bring your concerns to management or HR.
2) Get out! You may not need to be concerned about being fired, but you should be concerned for your own mental well-being. If you feel like you are being manipulated or used, it’s not conducive to a positive work environment. It could eventually tear you down to the point where you feel like your work is not good enough.
You should plan to leave while you are still confident in yourself and your work and take your talents somewhere they’ll actually be acknowledged and appreciated. You shouldn’t have to bow to bullies and toxic people to feel sane in your job.
Other posts in the series:
On this site, I will continue sharing my experiences with a toxic workplace and offer advice, based on my own practices, on how to stick it out, if you can’t leave, right away. So watch this space, as I hope to make it a permanent feature.
Feel free to send email to Contact@dizzydezzi.com with questions, comments, concerns or to share your own story or to get advice.