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What Gaslighting at Work Looks and Sounds Like—and How to Deal

By | Tara Haelle |

In one of my first jobs, I was a hostess at a restaurant with a strict dress code: no sleeveless tops or dresses. One day I brought in a modest white crocheted dress that had no lining on the short sleeves, so parts of my shoulders were visible. I asked the manager if it met the dress code, and said I’d brought along a spare outfit in case it didn’t. Sure, he told me. So I wore it for my shift.

A few days later I was fired. The reason? I wore an outfit that violated the dress code. I explained that the manager had cleared the dress, but he denied it. He also insisted I never told him about a planned vacation when I was hired—the other reason I was being fired since, apparently, we weren’t allowed to take a full week off during the summer.

I was positive I remembered him telling me the dress was OK, but did I misremember telling them about the vacation? I started to doubt myself. Maybe I hadn’t said anything?

What I didn’t realize then was that the manager was gaslighting me—causing me to question my own experiences as a power play. It’s a sadly common occurrence in the workplace. More than half of the 3,033 Twitter users who responded to a poll from a U.K.-based HR software and services firm reported they’d faced gaslighting at work. But recognizing it and taking steps to reduce or avoid it can help protect your mental health.

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