We’ve all been there. Someone denies that something was done or said even though you saw or heard it with your own eyes and ears. That’s called gaslighting, and it’s not okay. It can have a negative impact on your wellbeing and even hurt your residents.
Here’s an example. You’ve always had about 10 residents to care for on your shift, and you’ve done a great job. That number has inched up, and suddenly you’ve got 20 residents. You confront your supervisor and she says, “This shouldn’t be a problem. You’ve always cared for that many residents. You know how to do it.”
Now, you know that’s not true. But is it really going to get you anywhere to argue? Not with a gaslighter, it won’t. You see, gaslighters use a toxic concoction of lies, denials, condescending comments, and insults (often disguised as ‘jokes’) to try and convince you of things that aren’t true or real. Very often, these people have done this for years and gotten away with it. So what can you do?
Unfortunately, there’s no set way or fail-proof formula to deal with gaslighters. But there are some things you can do. To start, don’t get angry or upset. Stay calm. If you get upset, the gaslighter is likely to use that to his or her advantage. For example, the person may say, “Maybe the problem isn’t that you have too many residents to care for but that you have a bad attitude.” You can take some of their power away from them by being polite and focusing on the truth.
Some other steps you can take:
- Collect proof of the facts. These might include records of your work performance, email messages, texts, or voicemails. Write down key points of conversations you have. When you talk to the gaslighter, have someone else present if possible.
- Stand up for yourself. If you are silent, the gaslighter takes that as a ‘win.’ And the longer you wait to respond with the facts, the more time the lies have to spread and get into people’s heads. Don’t let insults or personal attacks go unchallenged. Be measured and polite, but let the person know that these AREN’T okay or acceptable.
- Don’t try to out-gaslight the gaslighter. Don’t stoop to the person’s level. Have your facts, and make it clear that you know the truth, and use this as your guide. Let the gaslighter know that you are documenting/recording your efforts and what you accomplish. Be clear that you know what they are doing and that it is unacceptable.
- When all else fails, contact HR. If the gaslighting continues and it’s hurting you and/or others, don’t feel like you just have to accept it. If you can’t handle it on your own (and there’s no shame if you can’t!), consider reaching out to someone in Human Resources for help. This is especially important if the gaslighting is threatening or hurting your reputation, your wellbeing, or your job.
Feeling empowered and in control at work is so important. When someone is making you miserable, damaging your reputation or self-esteem, or hurting your ability to do your job and care for the residents you love, you can do something about it. It may not always be easy and you may need the help and support of others, but you deserve to have a job you enjoy and are proud of. Don’t let a gaslighter take that away from you.