What is Gaslighting and how can you deal with it in your workplace?
In this article, we look at gaslighting in the workplace, what it is, how to spot when an Employee is being gaslit, and the steps you should take when allegations arise.
What is ‘Gaslighting’?
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation and abuse of power that focuses on creating self-doubt.
In the workplace gaslighting can lead to manipulative workplace practices. The abuser will lie and create false scenarios to make the Employee believe they are imagining things and feel non-credible.
Gaslighting at work can cause the victim to develop trust issues within their workplace and may develop mental health issues and stress. This could lead to their confidence and productivity levels dropping. It could also lead to long-term sickness.
How can you spot signs of gaslighting in the workplace?
As mentioned, Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse, it is more subtle than other types of emotional abuse, like bullying for example. If an Employee is being Gaslit can cause dread and fear in attendance, lead to sickness/absence, and ultimately Employees look for work elsewhere.
If you have an Employee who is being Gaslit they will be displaying signs at work, Signs of gaslighting can include:
- A lack of wanting to do things the right way by the Manager?
- Are priorities changing at the last minute?
- The Manager not following through on policies; for example, absence management processes?
- Is the Manager not following the disciplinary process properly or even disproportionally applying a disciplinary process to one Employee compared to another?
- The Manager failing to document anything and avoiding taking minutes at meetings?
- The Manager acting irrationally, such as suspending an Employee for doing something minor?
It may be that evidence is hard to establish, and or exist, it may be that it is one word against the others. It is important to remember that in a workplace setting that reasonable belief that something has happened is required, rather than a requirement for absolute proof.
What should you do if you identify that Gaslighting is occurring?
A full and proper investigation should be carried out by an impartial and competent person, this should include taking witness statements from anyone who may be witness to any of the events that have been alleged by the Employee.
Witness statements are also required from both the Employee and the accused.
The investigator will need to reach a decision based on what they think is most likely to have occurred.
From this point the matter could take a couple of routes, the first is no further action, the outcome to this effect should be provided and in writing, and the second is the matter is progressed to a disciplinary hearing.
If the second is applicable, then the disciplinary process would need to be followed.
What should you do if an Employee raises a Grievance?
You may find that an Employee raises the matter as a formal grievance. In most circumstances it is more prevalent for Gaslighting allegations to involve Managers, if a formal grievance is raised by an Employee, it often highlights a form of indirect discrimination.
Interestingly, female Employees are more likely to experience Gaslighting than male Employees (According to the Trades Union Congress).
Grievances involving Gaslighting can be difficult to prove, this could be due to the nature of the acts, at times the isolation of the acts, the fact that others may not notice; it does not dissuade of course that the Employee feels undermined, ignored, and may suffer changing priorities, etc.
This does not mean that Gaslighting should be ignored, you should take complaints seriously, and consider what you reasonably believe has happened, this would be given what you establish as part of any formal grievance, you should follow your internal grievance process, this may include providing recommendations and a written outcome.
How can you avoid allegations of Gaslighting?
Firstly, awareness and communication is crucial, your Managers and Employees should be aware of Gaslighting, and your Managers should be trained and to a high standard.
Your policies and your internal expectations are, should be clearly communicated.
You should set out what Employees can do if they are experiencing issues whilst at work, and who they can speak with to resolve matters, and of course, your Employees should understand the consequences of not following your internal policies.
What can happen if Gaslighting happens and is ignored?
If left undetected, and or ignored grievances could end in serious and time-consuming HR matters, or an Employee bringing a claim to a tribunal.
Gaslighting can lead to constructive dismissal or claims of discrimination and harassment.
How can we help you?
Why not make contact with us today, we work with any size of business irrelevant of whether you have in-house HR or not.
Simply contact us via email, [email protected], or phone, 0333 006 9489, for a no obligation chat to find out how our services can help you improve your workplace.
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