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6 Signs You're Experiencing Gaslighting at Work, Therapists Say

Here's what to do about it, according to experts.

Complex power dynamics and constant demands and deadlines can make the workplace an emotionally fraught environment. And while most jobs have some level of stress involved, certain workplaces have especially unhealthy patterns. In particular, some people report experiencing gaslighting and feel that they're being manipulated into questioning their own perception of reality. Many say it can be particularly difficult to navigate this scenario without compromising their employment.

For that reason, it might be best to first speak with the person directly and first resolve it on your own, suggests Rachel Goldberg, LMFT, founder of Rachel Goldberg Therapy in Los Angeles, California. This approach, when received in good faith, "allows the other coworker to rectify the situation and hopefully respect that you brought it to their attention without engaging upper management and threatening their job," she says.

However, if that isn't a feasible option, if harassment is involved, or if the person doubles down on their gaslighting, the next step is to voice your concerns to a superior. "If it is a superior that is doing the gaslighting then it might be wise to bring in human resources (HR), so your efforts don't result in retaliation. Ultimately, it's important to document everything with dates to provide clear evidence in case a situation escalates," Goldberg shares.

Wondering if what you're experiencing is gaslighting? These are the six red flags that could suggest intentional manipulation at work.

RELATED: 4 Signs Your Parent Is Gaslighting You, Therapist Says.

A coworker or supervisor regularly distorts the facts.

men talking at work
Portra / iStock

The greatest hallmark of gaslighting is when someone intentionally distorts the facts and undermines your perception of reality. In the workplace, this can be especially subtle.

"An example of this is when presenting a collaborative project with a coworker, and the coworker takes credit for the majority of the ideas, despite the truth being the opposite," notes Goldberg.

Online therapist Becca Reed, LCSW, PMH-C, says she frequently hears from clients that they feel their boss or colleagues have gaslit them in this way. "Your supervisor or colleagues may deny events occurred or invalidate your feelings. You may find yourself questioning your memory or perceptions," she shares.

"Consider keeping detailed records of interactions and incidents," Reed suggests. "This can serve as a reference point for your experiences and may be useful in discussions with HR or a trusted co-worker."

You receive unjustly harsh or personal criticism.

Young woman holding her head as though she has a headache while in the office
fizkes / Shutterstock

Both experts say that if you constantly receive harsh criticism, this could be a sign that you're experiencing gaslighting at work.

"An example would be if you were criticized during a performance review for low productivity and it was insinuated that the issue is due to your lack of initiative and competence with no mention of inadequate resources or unrealistic workload expectations," Goldberg explains.

Reed says there are a few key ways that you can push back on this form of gaslighting: "Seek feedback from multiple sources to gain a more balanced view of your performance. Engage in regular professional development to build resilience against unwarranted criticism. Consider documenting your achievements and contributions. Regularly share updates or progress reports with your supervisor and peers to ensure your work is accurately represented."

RELATED: 5 Times You're Mistakenly Accusing Someone of Gaslighting.

You notice a pattern of broken promises.

angry male boss yelling at his female employee

Goldberg says another red flag that could suggest gaslighting at work is if you notice a pattern of your boss denying their previous promises.

"An example of this is your boss letting you know that you are next in line to be promoted and then ends up promoting someone else or hiring from outside and denying ever promising it to you," she says.

Going forward, when your boss makes a promise that you're concerned they won't keep, follow up by confirming it in an email.

Your boss denies playing favorites.

two male businessmen shaking hands and smiling in the office
Shutterstock / fizkes

Sometimes, a boss may favor one employee over another. Though this can create tension for obvious reasons, it is not, in itself, gaslighting. However, "acting ignorant or making up a groundless excuse if confronted" is a sign of gaslighting in this scenario, Goldberg says.

Take note of whether it's affecting your ability to do your job. If so, it's worth documenting in case you decide to take action or need to defend your position later.

RELATED: 7 Body Language Signs That Mean Someone Is Lying, According to Therapists and Lawyers.

You notice the goalposts are always moving.

Demanding boss pointing to his watch and asking his employee to hurry up while she sits behind a stack of folders and papers
demaerre / iStock

Reed says that if you start noticing constantly changing expectations, this could be yet another sign of gaslighting at work. "Goals, deadlines, or project guidelines change frequently with little notice, making it nearly impossible for you to meet expectations or complete tasks successfully," she says, describing how this form of gaslighting might play out.

The therapist recommends requesting a written clarification on your role, responsibilities, and expectations if this happens with frequency. "Having a documented agreement can provide a stable reference point and help address shifting goals," she says.

You're being intentionally isolated from others.

Confused man looking at his laptop

Intentional isolation is another red flag that can indicate gaslighting in any type of relationship—romantic, familial, or professional. That's because when you're on your own, it's harder to confirm your own understanding of events or validate your feelings.

Reed says that a boss may isolate you from colleagues "either by physically moving you away from the team or even by excluding you from meetings or communications."

"Make it a point to engage with colleagues and participate in workplace activities. Build a network within your organization to counteract attempts at isolation," she suggests.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more