The signs that someone is gaslighting you are things that also make for a toxic work environment. When your boss, or coworkers, are people that lie to you, deny their behavior, belittle you, keep you unbalanced, and then use that confusion against you, it can make for an incredibly long workday.
The gaslighter will chip away at your confidence and possibly even turn others against you, even telling people you are the one who is lying. The worst thing is that all that stress, negative feelings, and emotional turmoil will spill over into the rest of your life.
“Bosses shape how people spend their days and whether they experience joy or despair, perform well or badly, or are healthy or sick. Unfortunately, there are hoards of mediocre and downright rotten bosses out there, and big gaps between the best and the worst.” ― Robert I. Sutton
How to recognize when a boss or coworker is gaslighting you
It is important to be able to recognize the difference between being the victim of gaslighting, and just not having the best boss. When your boss is gaslighting you, you will notice they engage in some pretty shifty behavior. This goes beyond poor communication and results in outright lies.
It doesn’t matter what it is about, it can be about something big like saying they heard things about you from a coworker. However, it can also be about something small like lying about throwing away something when you asked them point-blank if they knew where something was.
They will lie to you with a straight face while simultaneously talking about how important trust and honesty are in the workplace. Denying things you know you have done is another form of lying.
How does being lied to affect your life outside of work? When someone lies to us, it not only shakes our confidence in them, but it is also insulting. My grandma always used to say, “When you lie to me, you call me stupid.”
I realized, as I got older, that people lie when they don’t think you will figure out the truth. Carrying out those negative feelings will make you start to doubt yourself in all areas of your life, and it’s more stress than anyone needs in their world.
They continuously deny things
Have you ever asked someone at work if they did (or didn’t do) something? One of my previous bosses asked me about a poster once. She had asked, providing no context, if I had seen it on my shift. I said, “no.” She told me that the other manager had told her it was on the desk when she left. I swore I had not seen it, and the two of us searched everywhere. This boss was not the type to let anything go. She finally found it in a trash can.
My boss then called my coworker to ask her about it again and told her I said I had never seen it. She continued to deny knowing anything about where it was. My boss told her we had found it in the trash can. She later admitted to me she had thrown it out. She said that she lied because she didn’t want the boss to yell at her, but my boss believed that she had never been aggressive about the situation. There was a lot of denying in this dynamic, and it made the days stressful.
Clearly, this will cause you to stress, and how does that stress impact you outside of work? Stress at work makes us irritable and short with the people in our lives. It is also bad for your physical health.
They belittle you
A master manipulator belittles their victim often and with varying intensities. Sometimes it is snide comments, and other times it is outright insulting. When someone belittles another person, it’s because of their own insecurities. They are trying to make themselves feel superior.
All it does is chip away at the other person’s confidence, which is not a great thing to do to your employees. Of course, if your boss belittled you all the time, you would never stay. So, they have to follow that up with over-the-top niceness.
Being dissatisfied with work like this can cause you to fear things like being fired, or getting so mad you just walk out. Now, besides the emotional stress, you might also face added financial pressure.
This keeps you in a constant unbalanced state
When your boss belittles you one moment about doing something the wrong way or making a mistake, and then in the next breath tells you that you do a wonderful job, it can leave you feeling confused. I had a peer who would get so mad, yell, and make the employees feel like trash, and then ten minutes later would tell them how outstanding they were.
They would later come to me and tell me how they felt they were inadequate at their jobs, and how this person came back and talked to them in a fake tone about how much she liked them. It left many of them unsettled.
This aspect of gaslighting wreaks havoc on your self-esteem and confidence which bleeds into other areas of your life. It can make you feel crazy and leads to you second-guessing your decisions.
Julie Wehmeyer says, “It is a good practice to look at your decisions and analyze your choices, but when you are constantly second-guessing yourself, and you stop trusting your own judgment, there is a good chance you are being gaslighted.”
Not being able to trust your judgment leads to a general sense of malaise and confusion.
The gaslighter uses this confusion to their advantage
By keeping you confused, and off-balance, they can keep you from feeling safe. This means you will feel less secure in other areas of your life. You might even question your own sanity when things happen at work that you know are wrong.
Sometimes, gaslighting is so bad that you can develop anxiety and depression because of the way you are feeling. Going through a portion of your life questioning your sanity and worth is nerve-wracking.
They can turn others against you
Someone who is this manipulative will also want to make sure that you don’t build close bonds with others on the team, so they can be in control. They will get mad if they think other people like you more than they like them and deliberately try to undermine you to those people. The only word for this type of environment is, toxic!
It will make work just about the last place on earth you want to be. This is a big problem because there are 168 hours in every week of our lives. We sleep (or should sleep) for 56 of those hours. That leaves us with 112 waking hours to live our weekly lives.
Approximately 3 hours of those 112 are spent getting ready to go to work! Factor in a 30-60 minute commute each way, and that is about another 14 hours missing! That brings the total time left to roughly 95 hours. If you only spend 40 hours at work (and let’s face it, some people spend more than that there) you have about 55 hours a week to live your life.
If you are being gaslit at work, how much of your limited time with your family and loved ones are you spending processing the trauma of the day? You might seem short and distant from the people who mean the most to you because your mind has to cope with what’s happened all day long. Stress damages your body physically and mentally.
Not only is the situation robbing you of quality time during the week, but it is also taking years off your life. According to the National Institute for Health and Welfare, “Being under heavy stress shortens their life expectancy by 2.8 years.”
If you are the victim of gaslighting at work, reach out to HR and see if you can get some help. You should not have to work under these conditions. It is making you less productive and happy at work, don’t let it take up any more time in your week! Stressing over someone you can’t change is not helping you enjoy the time you spend away from work. If HR doesn’t help you, it might be time to look for a new adventure where you will be appreciated.