What is a Gaslighter?

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Unfortunately nowadays many of us have fallen victim to a gaslighter at least once in our lifetime. What is a gaslighter? A gaslighter is someone who manipulates you using psychological means, into questioning your own sanity. The term comes from a 1940’s film titled “Gaslight”. In the movie a husband manipulates and torments his wife into believing she’s gone insane. In this article, I will share with you examples of gaslighters at work and in the personal life. Have you, or are you a victim of gaslighting? Do you know someone who is or has been a victim? Feel free to share your story in the comments section below.

Losing all sense of self-control

That is the gaslighters goal, to make their victims question themselves. They manipulate you into believing that things you know happened never really did. You often find yourself second guessing actual facts because they’ve convinced you it’s all in your head. For example:

  • Cheating He/she will stop at nothing to convince you, your family, and your friends that you are cheating. In reality, they are the ones who are cheating but by trying to convince you and everyone else that YOU are the cheater, it takes your focus off of them. They will call everyone looking for you. Meanwhile you’re at work. You told them that you were working late to make some extra money however, they will insist you never told them until you begin doubting whether you actually did. They do this to redirect your focus from them and what they’re doing. You’re so busy clearing your name that you don’t even notice that they have been “working late” rather frequently.
  • Splitting and/or pitting you against others – They have no problem telling blatant lies to align your family, friends, co-workers, etc. against you. They will even go so far as to try and convince them YOU are crazy.
  • Lying – they will lie in order to keep you off-balance. By the time you realize what is happening, you will have already begun to question reality and it’s possible that your credibility with others has been damaged.

Pre-emptive Strikes

The gaslighter will use pre-emptive strikes, once again, for the purpose of removing the attention from themselves and divert it to you.

For example: Let’s just say you begin to suspect they have a drug problem. There’s been money missing from your wallet and they’ve been acting strangely. Before you can confront them with your suspicion, they accuse you of having a drinking problem. They’ll use examples of times they “know” you were wasted. Of course you can’t recall those times because they didn’t actually happen but they’ll keep working at it by convincing you that you “blacked out”. They become so convincing that you actually start to believe it’s the truth. See how that works? You are no longer thinking about their problems because you’re focusing on your imaginary problems.

Using social media to deflect the attention away from themselves is another example of a pre-emptive strike. We all know how quickly things get around with social media. All they need to do is plant the seed of doubt and before you realize it, you’re looking like a monster and they are the victim.


Gaslighting and Narcissists

Gaslighters will try to project their behavior onto their victim. They can’t own up to their behavior so they accuse you of being the manipulator. Some project out of guilt or shame. If a gaslighter also happens to be narcissistic, they feel that everyone else has a problem, not them. Their projection can even reach the point where the gaslighter believes they are being persecuted by you instead of the other way around.

Gaslighting is abuse

Whether at work or in your personal life, gaslighting is abuse. The psychological abuse caused by the gaslighter is part of the power and control that is also seen in domestic abuse. By making the victim doubt themselves, the gaslighter is drawing them away from seeing the real issue, that they are being abused. Gaslighting is often found in conjunction with physical or verbal abuse. They may try to convince their victims that what they remember happening really never did. If this is happening to you, please seek help immediately. National Domestic Violence Hotline – (800) 799-7233, www.thehotline.org

Gaslighting in the workplace

Most of us, myself included, have been too busy trying to earn a living and doing a good job to pay attention to the little details that indicate you’re a victim of gaslighting.

A gaslighter in the workplace can be anyone; a manager or supervisor, co-worker, prejudiced work group, disgruntled customer, client or even a business competitor. They will use persistent manipulation, criticism, and invalidation to make the victim doubt themselves and their worth.

False statements

The workplace gaslighter will make deliberate false statements, unsubstantiated accusations, and exaggerations about their victim. They will also make negative judgments about you and make personal attacks on your character or integrity.

Gaslighting? Or everyday on-the-job issues?

There are some elements of gaslighting that distinguish it from other similar on-the-job issues, such as:

  • The situation is based on an unrelenting individual, group, or institutional bias and negativity rather than solid proof, hard facts, established cases or proven data.
  • The stressful workplace create negative feelings toward the victim, not the gaslighter. This is because they have manipulated the situation to cast a shadow over the good that you’ve done such as your contributions and accomplishments.
  • If approached, the gaslighter will deny they’ve done anything wrong and may become defensive. They may be dismissive and evasive, trying to remove the focus from themselves.

Characteristics of a workplace gaslighter

Below are some of the things you should look for when trying to decide if you’re indeed dealing with a gaslighter in your workplace:

  • Constant negative statements about the victim’s performance and credibility. Their negativity is based solely on personal judgment, not actual facts.
  • Frequent gossip about the victim’s professional and/or personal characteristics. This can also be considered passive-aggressiveness.
  • Negative publicity, smearing or branding that is largely based on lies rather than actual evidence. This can damage the victim’s professional credibility and reputation.
  • Relentless derogatory humor and sarcasm. Expressing hostility disguised as humor to mock, tease and belittle the victim. Often followed by “just kidding.”
  • Purposeful professional exclusion, without reasonable justification, (i.e. professional segregation, “the Good Ol’ Boys Club”, “the Glass Ceiling,” etc.) from networking, advancement, leadership, etc., where the victim is perfectly qualified to participate.
  • Evident bullying or intimidation.
  • Provable inequitable treatment compared to other employees. When questioned, the gaslighter will redirect the blame to the victim implying they are the cause of their own victimization.


Gaslighting, whether personal or professional, can have a long-lasting psychological effect on their victim(s). A gaslighter will purposely make their victim question their self-worth, credibility, and even their sanity. If you are someone you know has fallen victim to a gaslighter, I encourage you to speak out and get help. Don’t let their actions prevent you from uncovering the truth, that they are manipulating you and others for their own personal gain.

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