Workplace Gaslighting: Understanding Your Legal Rights

Doug Mann

Gaslighting often goes unnoticed in the workplace because many Americans do not fully understand what it is, or why it happens in the first place.

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Table of Contents
  1. The Dangers of Gaslighting
  2. Common Signs of Workplace Gaslighting
  3. Can I Sue for Workplace Gaslighting?
  4. Speak With a Workers’ Rights Attorney

Workplace gaslighting is a form of workplace harassment involving tactics that cause the victim to get penalized or fired for something they are not doing. Sometimes gaslighting involves lying to the victim to make them believe something incorrect, or arguing with a victim until they believe the attacker is correct and they are in the wrong.

In 1944, a movie called Gaslight came out in theaters. It depicted a man who manipulated his wife through sneaky tactics and deception to make her believe she was becoming mentally unstable. The term was first used or discovered in a British play called Gas Light, which was performed in 1938. Since then it’s become a staple term in psychology, describing an individual who forces others to doubt themselves to the point of questioning their own memories and judgment on a subject.

The Dangers of Gaslighting

As the name suggests, gaslighting can be extremely dangerous, beginning as nothing more than a small spark and culminating into a blazing fire of doubt and disorientation. Individuals who experience workplace gaslighting and other forms of workplace harassment face issues such as:

  • Self-doubt
  • Low self-esteem
  • An inability to feel comfortable in social and work situations
  • Changing of beliefs
  • Cognitive dissonance

In some instances, individuals who use workplace gaslighting to get what they want are projecting their own problems onto others.

For example, they may be forging documents at work, and make another employee believe it was them who had done it. In this instance, the gaslighter is projecting his or her own actions onto another. Usually, this is not only to get themselves out of trouble but to purposely hurt or control the other person.

Common Signs of Workplace Gaslighting

Workplace harassment takes many forms, and workplace gaslighting is among the worst of them. The problem with gaslighting is that it is not always obvious it is happening to you, which makes it difficult to catch and report. Watching for signs of workplace gaslighting can help you determine if you are being manipulated so that you can contact an employment lawyer as soon as possible.

Common signs of workplace gaslighting include:

Denying things they’ve done: When a gaslighter commits an offense they are quick to take a defensive stance. Even if it is something that has just happened or something you can prove happened, a gaslighter is quick to deny it and will stand by the lie trying to force you to believe it.

Manipulating with weakness: Workplace gaslighting is effective because your work colleagues learn so much about you as you work together. This opens doors to your weaknesses, such as your kids, family, or pets. Knowing what is important to you makes it easier for a gaslighter to make you feel unworthy of them.

Openly lying: Gaslighters have a knack for lying without breaking a sweat or batting an eye, even when the lie is obvious. This is one of the ways they trick you into believing the lie to be the truth. If you notice a colleague lying often and well, it could be a workplace gaslighting tactic.

Ongoing workplace harassment: Workplace gaslighting does not occur in one sitting. It is a long game occurring over months, or even years of working together. It is the longevity of the harassment which eventually forces the victim to believe it must be true.

Using negs: A “neg” is a negative remark or comment, often tied in with one or two positive comments. Using a neg is meant to cause the victim to believe they are being told something good about themselves, or that the abuser is their friend and cares for them, while in actuality, they are slowly and strategically planting seeds of doubt. This confuses the victim, making it difficult to catch the gaslighter.

An expert tip from Doug Mann

If you notice these things taking place, it helps to contact an employment lawyer. Even if you are unsure you are experiencing workplace gaslighting, your employment lawyer can help you sort through the facts and get to the bottom of things. In Ohio, an employment attorney is trained in a variety of issues, including workplace harassment and workplace gaslighting.

workplace gaslighting

Once you are sure you are experiencing workplace gaslighting, there are a few things you can do to begin protecting yourself and building a case. The more information you can give your employment lawyer, the higher your chance is for retribution. Similarly, the more people who know something is going on, the better.

File a report

Speaking to your HR representative helps your employment lawyer get ahead in a workplace harassment suit because it provides official documentation of what has been going on.

Even if you feel you cannot prove what is going on to your HR rep, having reported it and it being on file improves chances for a successful workplace gaslighting case.

Document your experience

Documenting your work experience helps an employment lawyer spot signs of workplace gaslighting you may have missed. This is particularly useful because many gaslighters have a knack for making you forget something has happened or making you think you are the one who has caused the problem.

When you have eyes on the outside, looking in, things become clearer, and writing everything down will give you this opportunity.

Speak to your fellow employees

Another thing you can do to ensure workplace gaslighting is occurring is to speak with other employees you know and trust. Chances are, if workplace harassment is occurring, you are not the only one being affected. Many gaslighters inflict their nastiness on multiple individuals to make themselves feel more powerful.

Speak With a Workers’ Rights Attorney

It is important that victims of workplace gaslighting understand that what is happening is not your fault. An employment lawyer will do their best to remove you from the situation, ensuring you feel safe in the workplace. The above steps can help to put together a solid case for you, which an experienced employment attorney will help you to pursue. If you feel you’re in need of legal assistance, get in touch with us today for a free consultation.

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