Think your manager is gaslighting you? Ask yourself these 4 questions

While the word “gaslighting” gets thrown around quite a bit in the workplace these days, it’s a much more severe and complex problem than simply having a bad boss. Gaslighters are manipulative, psychologically abusive saboteurs who may have a mental illness. If you think your manager might be gaslighting you at work, ask yourself these four questions.

  1. Does your manager lie?

A signature characteristic of a gaslighter is a refusal to admit they are wrong. If your manager doubles down when you dispute their account of a conversation or an event, even when you know you are right, they might be a gaslighter. Gaslighters are such effective liars that they make their victims question their memories and, ultimately, their sanity.

  1. Does your manager talk bad about you behind your back?

Victims of gaslighting at work often notice that their performance has a negative reputation without merit. While gaslighters might seem friendly and supportive face-to-face, they often speak poorly of their victims to colleagues and superiors.

  1. Have inexplicable things been happening at work?

Do things disappear and then reappear from your workspace? Have documents or files gone missing from your computer? Have you noticed strange logins to your accounts?

These are real examples of gaslighting behavior that employees have experienced.

Gaslighters intentionally try to control their victims by making them feel psychologically unstable.

  1. Do you think your manager ultimately wants you to succeed?

The most important thing to ask yourself to determine if your boss is a gaslighter is whether or not they want you to succeed. A tough manager who holds a high bar and pushes you to do better is not a gaslighter. Gaslighters are malicious and do not ultimately want to see an employee succeed. On the contrary, they aim to sabotage their victims’ careers.

If you think your manager is a gaslighter after reflecting on these four questions, it’s time to take action. First off, reground yourself, as gaslighters corrode their victims’ confidence. Recognize if this has happened to you, discuss it with your therapist or trusted friend, and implement a self-care plan. Next, start documenting every interaction with your manager. Be sure to use a personal device that your manager can’t access. Finally, take your evidence to HR.

The only way to get out of a professional relationship with a gaslighter is to leave or have them removed. If the organization is unwilling to take action on your complaint, you may, unfortunately, have to remove yourself from the abusive situation and seek employment elsewhere.


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XcelMil, LLC is a certified Minority-Woman and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business specializing in Executive Management Consulting and Leadership Development Training.

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