Gaslight – To manipulate someone into doubting themselves, through psychological means.
I can almost see you sitting up, recollecting moments and incidents when something quite similar to this happened to you. Strangely, it wasn’t in a relationship; but, at the workplace.
“But, it couldn’t possibly be… ‘gaslighting’?” You’re wondering to yourself. I mean, what have they got to lose, right? Nothing.
Exactly. It’s you who’s losing your sanity.
According to Counselling Resource:
“Effective gaslighting can be accomplished in several different ways. Sometimes, a person can assert something with such an apparent intensity of conviction that the other person begins to doubt their own perspective. Other times, vigorous and unwavering denial coupled with a display of righteous indignation can accomplish the same task. Bringing up historical facts that seem largely accurate but contain minute, hard-to-prove distortions and using them to “prove” the correctness of one’s position is another method. Gaslighting is particularly effective when coupled with other tactics such as shaming and guilting. Anything that aids in getting another person to doubt their judgment and back down will work.”
So, how do you know you’re a victim of gaslighting in your office, especially when your boss is obviously such a wonderful person? It almost seems impossible. Almost.
And every time you try to have a discussion about your role with your manager, they either find something way more important to do, or shoot you down with an ambiguous comment that goes something like this:
“You shouldn’t have to ask me this after all this time,” complete with the whole, I-can’t-believe-you’re-asking-me-of-all-people-this.
Every tiny mistake – from a missed call to a delayed email response; from sitting in someone else’s chair to speaking out of turn; to the extent you soon start apologising for a mistake someone else from the team would have made.
From your ideas to your presentations; and from your emails to your execution – there’s something always amiss from every task you take on. Your manager always seems to find fault in a project you undertake; even if you know you’ve worked way too hard to let it go wrong.
You’ve become so used to harsh, or negative feedback and rejection that you’ve begun to second guess your own ideas and the way you work.
Remember that incident that upset you because your manager excluded you from a team activity without even telling you, or when you were publicly criticised for something you didn’t even do? You confronted your manager about it, didn’t you? And, turns out, that’s not what happened. So, why did you think that it did? And this isn’t the first time you’re thinking about an incident that ‘never happened that way’.
Your ideas always get shot down, or talked over. And yet, when someone else pitches the same idea or proposal that you did, it’s picked up and they’re even lauded publicly.
You’ve tried to address the issue with your manager, asking them if there was something wrong. And guess what, you’re just being too over-sensitive about the whole situation. You can’t take things personally in a professional environment and, obviously, you’re over thinking situations. “It’s all in your head,” you’re told. You’ve even considered talking to a shrink about it.
You no longer have an opinion or a say about anything, nevermind what designation or role you hold, or play within the team. None of it matters because you officially no longer know whether or not you’re right or wrong.
You’re a ‘silent team player’, you tell yourself. But, the truth is, you’re not even considered to be part of the team anymore. You choose to stay on the sidelines, observe and just execute the task that is assigned to you. You’ve become more silent than ever before; you’re no longer the go-getting, ‘dazzling employee with great potential’ anymore. You’re just… silent.
You feel left out. You don’t fit in with anything your team mates say, or do. You don’t get the office party groups, you don’t get the group discussions. You’re constantly on the outside looking in. You don’t want to be around them anymore and you know they wouldn’t care either way.
No manager, or company, will ever acknowledge ‘gaslighting’ an employee; just like a partner in a relationship (why do we forget that our office space is also a sacred space of relationships?). But, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. A good manager will uplift you; not downgrade you. A good manager will be assertive enough to tell you upfront if you’re wrong; not passive aggressive and avoid you.