Gaslighting. We’ve heard of it in romantic relationships but did you know that it’s also a common occurrence in the workplace? Consider this interaction:
You log out of your workstation for a lunch break, only to return to your desk with your laptop open, files missing and objects on your desk moved. When you bring it up to your supervisor, he claims you’re just paranoid and that you must have done this yourself.
The next day during your lunch break, you make sure to log out and tidy your desk before leaving. Except you forget your phone and you walk back into the office, only to see that same supervisor at your workstation moving things around. When you confront him about it, he claims he needed a file from you.
But you don’t think that’s the case.
If this situation seems familiar or you suspect your supervisor or coworker is trying to undermine you, know that you have legal options and Brown Kwon & Lam can help.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that is used to gain control over another. In the workplace, gaslighting may be a coworker or supervisor attempting to convince you that you are insufficient in the position you hold, cannot be trusted, or simply are not liked by other employees.
The goal of gaslighting is to convince the victim that they are the problem–not the perpetrator. In essence, the perpetrator is hoping that by diminishing your self-esteem, you won’t seek help from HR or another employee.
Gaslighting is different from a workplace bully. A gaslighter typically works alone to manipulate an employee whereas a bully will try to rally other employees to mock, embarrass, or ridicule an employee.
Examples of gaslighting in the workplace include:
- Sabotaging: A coworker may offer to help with something and then make you look bad in front of your boss.
- Spying: Like our earlier example, a gaslighter may try to spy on you in the workplace and when caught, will deny it and connect it back to a work-related need.
- Spinning harassment allegations: Gaslighting isn’t just a singular action; it can be coupled with other adverse workplace behaviors like harassment. For example, if a supervisor has been sexually harassing you and you report it to HR, they may spin the allegation to say that you told him that if he didn’t give you a promotion, you’d file a harassment claim.
What should I do if I’m being gaslighted?
If you suspect you are being gaslighted at work by a coworker or supervisor, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself.
- 1. Get the facts. Right now, you likely are having a hard time distinguishing fact from fiction. Take notes and keep a log of what you do at work, record when you submit your tasks, and keep email records. This will help you maintain control and help build a record.
- 2. Do not meet with the gaslighter alone. If the perpetrator tries to meet with you alone, tell them you would rather meet with another employee or supervisor. If they say no, ask why. Document any behavioral changes and consider reporting them.
- 3. Know your rights and seek legal counsel. If the behavior continues, you may consider leaving your job. Remember you are the victim in this and you have rights.
Under both New York state and federal laws, you are protected from workplace harassment and discrimination. If you need legal advice on what course of action to take against your gaslighter, the New York employee advocates at Brown Kwon & Lam are here for you.
Gaslighting in the Workplace: Brown Kwon & Lam
When it seems like everyone is questioning you, treating you unfairly, and ganging up against you, know that you are not alone. At Brown Kwon & Lam, we will defend you in your New York workplace claim. If you are a victim of gaslighting, call Brown Kwon & Lam. We want to help.