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Workplace Gaslighting – An Employee Wellness Issue

Knowledge Center / Blog

Workplace Gaslighting – An Employee Wellness Issue

By The Employer Group - Dec 21, 2022

In the last year, the term gaslighting has become very popular. The term, originating from the 1944 movie Gaslight, and the 2022 Merriam-Webster’s word of the year, is defined as attempting “to make someone believe that he or she is going insane by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation” (  

Gaslighting can be challenging to identify in the workplace because the victims of gaslighting may not realize they are being psychologically manipulated, thus affecting the employee’s wellbeing and performance. If someone is shutting down your ideas, you may start questioning your own reality and believing the critical judgments that the gaslighter portrays. Some key gaslighting behaviors, as outlined on Psychology Today’s July 19, 2020 post, include: 

  • Blaming others 
  • Bullying and intimidating or presenting falsehoods intentionally 
  • Questioning a person’s recollection of work-related events as an attempt to discredit the individual 
  • Persistent hostile humor and sarcasm 
  • Persistent professional exclusion 
  • Persistent negative public comments in front of others 

Gaslighters feel a sense of control and power, and if they are confronted or criticized, they may respond with personal attacks. Confronting gaslighters about their behaviors is a slippery slope, yet it is the manager’s responsibility to create and maintain a workplace free of hostile and toxic behaviors.   

While combatting gaslighting can be very difficult, the first step is to educate yourself on what this may look like in your workplace and support and affirm any employee that comes to you questioning themselves because of toxic gaslighting behavior. It is essential to document and address instances of gaslighting so that there is proof of hostile behavior and the gaslighter knows the behavior must stop. If it doesn’t stop, your next step should follow any communicated disciplinary steps, remembering in most employment situations, managers have the right to terminate employment at-will, or for harassment, policy infractions or a poor fit for the company culture. 

If you need assistance developing policies clearly stating your anti-harassment stance, or with addressing poor employee performance/behaviors, you may benefit from a partnership with The Employer Group. 

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