Coping with a Gaslighter at Work

Protect yourself from people who will stop at nothing to destroy your career.

Posted Sep 27, 2018

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Gaslighters are masters of manipulation. They make you question your reality. If you have one at your workplace, they would rather burn the company to the ground than have attention taken away from them. They pit people against each other, get people fired—and the gaslighter loves every minute of it.  If you have been continually sabotaged by your coworker, you may be dealing with a gaslighter. What do you do to protect yourself?  In my book Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People - and Break Free, I have devoted an entire chapter to gaslighting in the workplace. Here are my recommendations: 

1. Educate yourself about gaslighting. Gaslighters are very good at ramping up their manipulative behavior slowly. The more you know about the manipulation tactics gaslighters use, the more quickly you can spot them. See my Psychology Today article 11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting and my book Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People – and Break Free.

2. Keep documentation. Write down what was said (including direct quotes, if possible), and date and time. If you file a complaint or see a lawyer, this documentation will be very helpful. It can be hard to remember details after the fact. Avoid keeping documentation on an employee-owned electronic device. 

3. Never be alone with the gaslighter. If you have a one-on-one meeting with a gaslighter, bring a witness. If your gaslighting coworker balks at you bringing someone else in the room, say that you needed someone to take notes of the meeting. Never be alone in an office building with the gaslighter. Also never go on sales calls with only the gaslighter in the car. Being alone with a gaslighter means that you are at risk of the gaslighter lying about something you did. Gaslighters are notorious for lying. 

4. Know your workplace's guidelines (or lack thereof) about reporting harassment. Large companies may have a policy that harassment complaints are reported to the Human Resources department. Smaller companies may not have a plan in place. 

5. Know your country's laws on workplace harassment.  In the US, see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/harassment.cfm. Harassment, such as gaslighting, is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and two other federal Acts. 

6. Consult an attorney, preferably one that specializes in labor law.  

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