Home Mental Health & Well-Being The Latest Threat to Workplace Productivity: How to Identify and Deal with Gaslighting

The Latest Threat to Workplace Productivity: How to Identify and Deal with Gaslighting

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In the world of work, productivity is often a top priority for organisations. However, there is a behaviour lurking within many workplaces that hinders productivity, damages employee morale, and creates toxic environments:

Google’s average yearly search volumes reveal that many organisations are reaching out for help creating a healthy working environment.

  • “Toxic boss traits” searches up 800% year on year
  • “Gaslighting in workplace” searches up 120% year on year
  • “Gaslighting boss examples” searches up 100% year on year

Poor company culture can manifest in many ways, such as poor leadership and management styles, a lack of work-life balance and a lack of support for employee well-being. It is important to recognise gaslighting in the workplace and take action to address it, as this is key to maintaining a positive workplace culture and retaining valued employees.

Rachel Murray, head of employee health and well-being at Bupa UK, delves into gaslighting and its impact on productivity and provides strategies for identifying and effectively dealing with gaslighting in the workplace.

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where people experience false information, denial, or distortion of reality, causing them to question their own perceptions and judgement. The perpetrator uses subtle tactics such as denial, blame-shifting, and minimising, leaving others disoriented and powerless.

It can occur between colleagues, but it is more likely to come from someone in a position of power. Gaslighting from a manager or leader can significantly impact an employee’s ability to do their job well and their self-esteem and mental health.

Recognising gaslighting behaviour

It’s helpful to know about the tactics a person who is gaslighting may use to identify and address the behaviours effectively. Gaslighting can be difficult to spot, but some signs can indicate that an employee is being gaslighted. These signs include:

  • The employee questioning their own memories or perceptions.
  • The employee feeling like they are always wrong.
  • The employee feeling isolated or alone.
  • The employee having difficulty trusting others.

Impact on workplace productivity

Gaslighting can have far-reaching consequences for productivity. Those who have experienced it may have reduced self-confidence, decreased motivation, and impaired decision-making abilities. The constant questioning of their own abilities and second-guessing may lead to a decline in job performance and an increase in stress and anxiety.

Strategies for dealing with gaslighting

Managers can play an important role in preventing and addressing gaslighting in the workplace. Some strategies include:

Be aware of the signs of gaslighting. It can be subtle, so it’s important to be aware of them. Some common signs include the gaslighter:

  • Denies saying or doing things that they clearly did.
  • Makes someone question their own memory or sanity.
  • Makes someone feel like they are the problem.
  • Isolates one person from other people.

Create a culture of trust and respect. Employees who feel trusted and respected are less likely to be gaslit. Make sure you have regular 1:1s with your team members, checking in on how they’re doing and getting to know them so you can spot signs of when they might not be their usual selves and ensuring that your employees know that they can come to you or your organisational “speak up” system if they feel like they are being manipulated.

  • Be open to feedback. Encourage your employees to give you feedback, both positive and negative. This will help you to identify any potential problems early on.
  • Set clear expectations. Ensure your employees know what is expected of them in their roles. This will help to prevent misunderstandings and accusations of gaslighting.
  • Take action. If you suspect that an employee is being gaslit, take action. This may involve talking to the gaslighter, the person who has experienced it, or HR.
  • Seek professional help. If the gaslighting takes a severe toll on an employee’s mental well-being, consider seeking support from a professional who can help them navigate the emotional impact of the gaslighting experience. Make your employees aware of their workplace health and well-being benefits and use them when needed.

Create a supportive work culture

Employers play a crucial role in fostering a supportive work culture that discourages gaslighting behaviour. Organisations can implement policies against workplace manipulation, provide training on recognising and addressing gaslighting, and encourage open communication and respect among employees.

By prioritising psychological safety and well-being, employers can reduce the occurrence of gaslighting and create an environment encouraging productivity and growth.

Rachel Murray is the head of employee health and well-being at Bupa UK.

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