Gaslighting At Work: Signs Your Coworkers Or Boss Are Messing With You - Simply Psychology (2023)

Gaslighting Examples At Work

Gaslighting at work can take many forms and is often subtle, causing the victim to question their perception. Here are some examples of gaslighting at work:

  1. When you first start the job, your colleague or boss act very supportive and nice (the “love-bombing phase”) but they turn against you and their behavior becomes cold and cruel. This tactic is used to give you a false sense of security and destabilize you. You question whether you did something to upset them and try your best to please them, which gives the perpetrator power over you.
  2. They might ask questions about you under the guise of wanting to get to know you but then use this information against you at a later date.
  3. Telling you your work is unimportant.
  4. Dismissing your input or comments in meetings or reports.
  5. Making you feel incompetent, for example, “how could you not include this information? It’s so important”
  6. Withholding work or reducing your workload without telling you why. If you question them they tell you “you’re imagining it” and tell you your performance is fine. This is confusing and makes you question your perception.
  7. If you bring up an issue, you are told “that’s not what happened” or “you’re just stressed, stop always worrying so much”.
  8. Being told you are “new” or “too young” and therefore your input is not valid.
  9. Making you question your memory by asking you to complete a certain task and later denying they did. Or vice versa, asking you for something that they never asked you to do.
  10. Experiencing sexual harassment and being told “you’re a troublemaker” or “you dressed provocatively”. Blaming the victim for what happened to them is a form of gaslighting.
  11. Dismissing offensive comments as being “jokes”.
Gaslighting At Work: Signs Your Coworkers Or Boss Are Messing With You - Simply Psychology (1)

Other signs of gaslighting in the workplace

  • You apologize without knowing why or what you did wrong
  • You feel ashamed and/ or incompetent after interactions with them
  • You are hyperconscious of your words and actions around the person, second-guessing yourself and worrying about being misunderstood
  • You feel like you cannot do anything right
  • If you try to explain how you feel, you are dismissed or laughed at
  • You question everything you do
  • Your confidence and self-esteem have diminished as a result of their behavior

Is gaslighting a form of harassment in the workplace?

Gaslighting can be considered a form of harassment or bullying in the workplace. It is a power play in which the perpetrator seeks to control the victim to benefit their own agenda.

To gain control, the perpetrator uses tactics that undermine the victim’s perceptions of themselves, their capability at work, and their sense of reality. The perpetrator exploits the victim’s self-doubt, insecurities, and fears to elevate their position and feel superior.

If the behavior is ongoing, the consequences to the victim’s mental health and work can be devastating.

The American Psychological Association defines bullying as “a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words, or more subtle actions”

In the case of gaslighting, it is bullying in the form of words and subtle actions. It is not always clear whether it is gaslighting, especially because the gaslighter might switch between being supportive and friendly and being cruel and unkind (termed “warm-cold behavior).


If the victim brings it up and confronts the perpetrator, they might be told “you’re overreacting” or “you’re being too sensitive”. Consequently, the victim will question their perception and doubt themselves.

According to therapist and author of Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People, Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, “Gaslighting is underreported in the workplace, because gaslighters who are particularly adept at manipulation may make the victim feel as if it was all his or her fault.”

Gaslighting is insidious and it can escalate – if you believe gaslighting is happening to you at work, take action.

How to deal with gaslighting at work

Dealing with gaslighting at work can be difficult as the behavior is often subtle and ambiguous. For that reason, it is important to document every incident, seek feedback from trusted others, and build a case against them.

Before you report it, ensure that you have the facts as the gaslighter is likely going to deny it and try to turn the tables on you.

Gaslighting is not always intentional. If you bring up an issue with a colleague or manager and their reaction is to apologize and engage with what you are saying, they may have inadvertently gaslit you.

However, if the behavior is ongoing and when you bring it up, they deny it or tell you you’re imagining it or are being too sensitive, it is a sign that they are purposefully trying to manipulate you.

(Video) Are you being gaslighted at work?

Document the Gaslighting Behavior

When you suspect that you are experiencing gaslighting or any other form of bullying in the workplace, take notes. Treat it as though you are writing a report; record what happened and when, and if possible, write down their words verbatim. Follow up on any verbal interactions you have with an email so that there is written evidence.

The more detail you have, the harder it will be for them to deny it or blame you. It will also help you to confirm your suspicions and realize that what is happening is not your fault – but that you have fallen victim to a gaslighter/ bully.

Confirm That It Is Gaslighting

Before you accuse someone of gaslighting, be sure that it is indeed gaslighting. Educate yourself on the topic and speak to trusted friends or colleagues about it. They will be able to give you an objective view of what is happening and confirm or disconfirm your suspicions.

Here is a reminder of what gaslighting is

Gaslighting describes a variety of behaviors that cause a victim to feel confused and question their sense of reality. Using persistent lying, denial, and contradictions, the gaslighter attempts to distort the victim’s reality and force them to accept a false or one-sided reality.

This gives the perpetrator control over another person. It is particularly effective when the power dynamic is unbalanced, for example, in a work context.

Be Careful About Confronting the Gaslighter

The aim of gaslighting is to exert control and avoid taking responsibility. Therefore, if you confront a gaslighter about their behavior, they will deny it, call you sensitive, and shift the blame so that you question yourself.

(Video) Signs Of a Gaslighting Boss (Is Your Manager Gaslighting You?)

Confronting the gaslighter can also lead to an escalation of their behavior, which could be detrimental to your well-being and ability to work. It is better to involve a trusted senior staff member or member of the Human Resources (HR) team.

Involve HR or Management

Gaslighting is often hard to prove and it can end up being your words against theirs (that is why it is important to document it in as much detail as possible). Try to find out how your organization has dealt with similar issues in the past by asking trusted colleagues or looking on websites where employees can leave reviews about a workplace.

Once you have a detailed account of the gaslighter’s behavior and you are sure it is gaslighting, arrange a meeting with management or HR. Explain what is happening in a calm and assertive manner and explain the impact it is having on your mental health and ability to do your work.

Avoid the Gaslighter

If the gaslighter is on your team avoiding them might be more difficult. However, you can find ways to reduce the contact you have with them as much as possible, for example, avoid lunches, coffees, and meetings with them.

Instead of interacting with them in person or on the phone, write emails. Grow your network and connect with other people at work. This will make you feel less isolated and could lead to new opportunities.

Look After Your Mental Health

Gaslighting and other forms of psychological aggression can have a detrimental impact on your mental health. It can cause chronic stress, anxiety, depression, diminish your self-esteem and sense of self-worth, and make you disengage from your job.

For that reason, prioritize your mental health. Make time for self-care, such as exercise, meditation/ mindfulness, journaling, spending time with loved ones, and connecting with nature. Remember that your health is more important than your job and treat yourself with compassion.

(Video) Signs You Are Being Pushed Out Of Your Job

Seeking the support of a therapist and getting a sick note from your doctor is also an option if you feel you cannot manage alone or are experiencing a crisis.

Leave the Team or Organization

Being persistent and struggling through difficulty can pay off sometimes. However, it is unlikely that a gaslighter will simply stop the behavior and that things will get better on their own. If you are unable to limit the contact with them or you feel your organization is not supporting you, it might be a good idea to leave.

You might perceive this as a failure but instead of engaging in this kind of negative self-talk, use it as an opportunity to learn. Before you accept a new job, do as much research about the company and its culture as possible.


American Psychological Association. (2015). APA Dictionary of Psychology (2nd ed.)

The National Bullying Helpline (2022). Gaslighting at work – Spotting the signs of subtle workplace bullying.

Schat. A & Frone, M.R., (2011). Exposure to Psychological Aggression at Work and Job Performance: The Mediating Role of Job Attitudes and Personal Health. Work Stress, 25 (1): 23-40.


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