The term Gaslighting is a ‘label’ which embraces a cocktail of inappropriate and often manipulative workplace practices. Sadly, these unacceptable practices are commonplace. Historically, we have described these practices as ‘subtle workplace bullying’.
The term Gaslighting is based on a 1944 film ‘Gaslight’ starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman’s character marries and mysterious things start to happen to her in her marriage. Her husband convinces her that she is imaging things, when in fact he is scheming with criminal intent. Psychologists describe Gaslighting as a subtle but unhealthy manipulative behaviour. An employee who is the subject of gaslighting will likely, certainly initially, struggle to understand what is occurring – similar to Bergman’s character in the film.
Typically, an employee cannot ‘put their finger on the problem’. They believe they are imagining things. They may even feel ‘non-credible’. All the employee knows is they feel constantly undermined or excluded and they start to develop trust issues within the workplace. Their confidence and productivity levels suffer. They start to feel unwell. They may even be signed off work by their GP with work-related stress.
Gaslighting is classic abuse of power. It is bullying. It’s a manipulate power-game, which individuals or groups of individuals play within a workplace with deliberate intent to control an individual or control a situation. A perpetrator could be a co-worker or a line manager. However, Gaslighting may be cultural ie: from the top down, condoned at Corporate management level. It’s an entirely unacceptable, subtle, management style.
Spotting the signs of Gaslighting is easier than you might think. Signs (not exclusively) include;
It is highly likely that Gaslighting has occurred in your workplace at some point in time. You may know someone who has experienced this behaviour. You may be experiencing Gaslighting yourself at this moment in time. The above are just a few examples.
It really can, and often is, extremely deep-routed within business, whether that business is private or public sector. It is important to remember that any one of the above circumstances, in isolation, does not necessarily make a case for Gaslighting. However, where a number of the above scenarios are occurring at work, and you are anxious, seek help immediately. Call The National Bullying Helpline on 0845 22 55 787 if you believe Gaslighting is occurring in your workplace.