Recently I read an article written by Kate Abramson, Indiana University, on the topic of gaslighting, titled “Turning up the lights on Gaslighting”, and realised that this type of action, unfortunately, does happen in the workplace. For example, have you ever been told that your concerns and worries are unfounded and that you are over-reacting? Somehow your perspective of a specific situation (reality) is eroded by someone who can dissuade you from pursuing that reality with the intent to either prevent you from knowing the truth or merely making you doubt your own sanity.
The term “gaslighting” comes from the movie “Gaslight” (1944), that starred Ms Ingrid Bergman (as Paula Alquist) and Charles Boyer (as Gregory Anton). Both Paula and Gregory were husband and wife. To gain access to Paula’s jewels, Gregory went on a path to make his spouse, Paula, lose her mind by manipulating her, her friends and her physical environment.
If we apply such form of manipulation (gaslighting) in a workplace context, could this be considered as a workplace bullying behaviour? I would think so. Gaslighting, I believe, is not uncommon, and I am sure most of us have been put in a position in which we are deliberately set up by others to doubt our own thinking and emotions. Instead of standing up to these people, we allow ourselves to be persuaded what they say makes more sense. When we give in, we are merely allowing others to take the opportunity to perpetuate their behaviour.
What should you do when you feel and think that you are being gaslighted?
- Be vigilant and not allow such behaviour to get in the way of your goals
- Stand firm in your beliefs and convictions
- Seeks verification as to why others are dissuading you of your thoughts and emotions
- Keep a record of the situation and address it with the individual or HR