Gaslighting in the Virtual Workplace

My intent today was to write more about invertebrates in the workforce as a follow up to last week’s post.  Instead, I am plowing new ground and will return to the spineless types next week.

As a coach and consultant I am always trying to be a better listener to people I know and those I work with.  Earlier this year I was talking with friends when the term “gaslighting” was raised.  This was a new one on me so I started to research into the practice of gaslighting in the workplace.  What I have read and continue to read is startling.

What is gaslighting?  Here is a good definition to start with:

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where one person strives to undermine another through a variety of emotional and behavioral acts.  This definition is a synopsis of reading several articles including some from Psychology Today and others.  The movie “Gaslight” from the 1940’s gives some context to the practice. 

Now that we know the general definition, what behaviors might we see?

  1. Telling someone you sent a message when you did not
  2. Not including others in a session and then asking why they did not attend
  3. Telling others you have done something when you have not

Gaslighting can be much broader and much deeper than this and it appears to becoming more widespread in the workplace.  I tried in vain to find research to quantify gaslighting, but her are a few anecdotal items I can offer

  1. When I search for gaslighting in the workplace, over 240,000 results show up
  2. Gaslighting appears to be a big issue among women and toward women in the workplace
  3. Proving that gaslighting is occurring can be problematic

Now that we know this is a valid and growing issue, what are some ways to combat the practice?  Here are a few offered by the Ladders in an article from May 2018:

  1. Record everything in writing and have witnesses when possible
  2. Lean on your tribe (friends, colleagues)
  3. Trust your gut
  4. Escalate the issue to HR or your manager (unless your manager is the perpetrator)
  5. Confront the offender (only if you are comfortable doing this and bring along a witness)
  6. Try to maintain your composure

If all else fails, it may be time to move on to a new role in another company.  I would only take “flight over fight” when all else fails.

I suspect we will see more about gaslighting in the near future when it comes to workplace behavior and legal challenges in the workplace.  For now, keep good records of what you see and hear and save all suspicious communication that lends toward exhibiting the behavior of the offender.

Gas can be dangerous and when gaslighting gets out of control, the results can be problematic.

Don’t be a victim.

I’ll be back in future weeks to discuss more about gaslighting and also to spend more time discussing whow it can be more troublesome in the virtual workplace.