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Is gaslighting at work harassment?

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2021 | Employment Law, Hostile Work Environment

The term “gaslighting” repeatedly appears in news articles about politics, celebrities and culture, but reports frequently downplay the term’s seriousness. Gaslighting reflects a form of abuse that involves psychological manipulation and leads people to question and doubt their perceptions. In a Florida workplace, gaslighting could rise to a level of severe harassment.

Gaslighting at work and its harm

People who gaslight at work frequently have positions of authority. A supervisor can force workers to perform a certain way, such as changing the steps necessary to complete a particular task, and might do so to badger someone.

Not all conflicts at work involve gaslighting, though. Sometimes, a supervisor may be challenging to get along with and prove overly demanding. Their motivations may center on achieving a business’ goals. By contrast gaslighting comes with a more malicious purpose. Gaslighting may involve making things so difficult that a worker loses confidence in him or herself. Perhaps the supervisor sees the employee as a threat and wishes to make life so miserable that the person quits.

In some instances, gaslighting may attempt to cover up sexual harassment. Attempts to get a worker to believe a false perception about inappropriate touching or comments may reflect a supervisor or co-worker’s attempt to deflect liability.

Addressing gaslighting in the workplace

Keeping documentary evidence of gaslighting is advisable. Troubling texts or emails may reveal a lot about someone’s inappropriate behavior. Writing down instances in a notebook might also help. Such information could be brought up at a meeting with human resources or others in the supervisory chain.

Unfortunately, the company culture might create an environment conducive to gaslighting behavior. The dismissive behavior might lead the company into a workplace harassment lawsuit. Employees who are dealing with on-the-job gaslighting and harassment may wish to speak to an attorney.