Gaslighting is a cunning practice wherein a person manipulates someone into doubting themselves through psychological means. This is often done to gain power over the other. As vague and hypothetical it may sound, it is one of the most unnoticed yet prevalent issues around us. You yourself may be, unknowingly a victim of gaslighting in your workplace, social gathering or your relationship. Coming back to workplace, as an HR, you can gauge a lot from your exit strategy and process, which gives you a good picture of the existing problems, some of them as serious as harassment or gaslighting.
Signs you should look for to identify gaslighting at your workplace:
- Not satisfied with their work: When an employee leaves the job because he is not satisfied with it, you need to ask him why he feels so. Not knowing their place in the company or not having any clarity about the job despite being in the system for some time, because the manager is not inclined to help the employee is one form of gaslighting. Especially in highly competitive environment, if a person thinks that his junior is very capable and might replace him one day, he might choose not to guide the person in the job at all. Always deferring his questions, not giving him any major responsibilities or leaving ambiguous statements to confuse the employee.
- Micromanaging: You would be surprised to know how many employees quit due to micromanaging. Yes, micromanaging is the worst form of gaslighting. It makes the employee a victim of self-doubt and shuns his growth. For the manager, nothing that the employee does pleases. Constant, unnecessary and numerous changes asked by the manager in what the employee does – mails, presentations, charts, reports, etc. can make the employee rethink his self-worth and can lead to a lot to dissatisfaction at work.
- You apologize a lot, even if it is not your mistake: Has your manager criticized you in public for incidents that you were not a part of or for something you did not say at all? Or for something that he was supposed to do and did not and ended up blaming you for it? And in all of these, you find yourself apologizing a lot. It is very clear to you that it is not your mistake but you were compelled to apologize. This is another form of gaslighting, where if your manager asserts something or speaks loudly, you start thinking back and doubt your version of reality.
- You find yourself changing over time: The most brutal thing about gaslighting is that it is done gradually, over time. Hence, when you feel that you have changed drastically over time, it can be a sign that you have been a victim of gaslighting. Yes, gaslighting wears a person down, the constant self-doubt, the receding within yourself, just being a silent spectator in your team meetings and asking for advice rather than solving problems on your own. You find yourself giving up easily and being less ambitious.
- You feel isolated: Even when in the team, you feel isolated, misunderstood and a lot of times you come across someone who comments that you are being ‘hyper’ or ‘over-sensitive’ about something. Your opinions are always never taken into consideration and you feel that you no more fit into your team. You have been gradually gaslighted.
- Random positive reinforcements: The reason that gaslighting goes unnoticed for a long time is because of its confusing nature. Your manager or colleague may try to negate their constant bad behaviour in some form of positive reinforcements like praising you, taking in your view. This might confuse you since this is different from their usual behaviour and you might end up confused if they really deserve your dislike or no. However, do not let such random behaviour fool you, since you might find yourself deeper into the troubled waters.
As an HR, you need to read between the lines in order to understand as which manager or employee is responsible for gaslighting. The effects of gaslighting are severe and the damage done is often irreversible. To maintain the sanity of your workplace and avoid losing a good pool of candidates, you need to weed out the thorn in your midst.
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