Gaslighting at work

Minding the Workplace

Gaslighting is a form of deliberate manipulation intended to disorient, confuse, and frighten those on the receiving end. Many discussions about gaslighting occur in reference to personal relationships, often in the context of domestic or partner abuse. However, gaslighting can occur in other settings as well, including workplaces. In fact, I predict that we’ll be hearing a lot more about gaslighting at work during the years to come, and I’d like to survey that waterfront.

Despite growing awareness of the term and its underlying behaviors, the idea of gaslighting is so rooted in pop psychology that there are no “official” definitions from more authoritative psychological sources. Indeed, the best definition that I’ve found comes from Wikipedia, a distinctly non-academic source:

…a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception…

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Gaslighting as a workplace bullying tactic

Minding the Workplace

gaslightSpecific workplace bullying tactics can run from the obvious and transparent to the remarkably deceitful and calculated.  Among the most treacherous of the latter is “gaslighting,” defined in Wikipedia as:

a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.

Gaslighting at work can range from orchestrated, manipulative aggressor-to-target behaviors, to HR officers expressing faux incredulity in response to claims of abusive mistreatment. Gaslighting appears on a recurring basis as a topic of discussion on social media among workplace bullying subject matter experts. It deserves some attention here.

Pop culture origins

Dr. Martha Stout, in her book The Sociopath Next Door (2005), describes the origins of the term:

In 1944, George Cukor directed a…

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Being trashed: the gendered politics of academic play

social politics and stuff

jigsaw picture

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about play recently, particularly whether play can help us reimagine and refashion what statehood could mean within progressive polities.

Typically, left engagements with the state gravitate towards critique or reform – both carry an attitude of instrumental, goal-oriented, serious action. Play, from this perspective, seems a ludicrous way of responding to concentrated political power and government.  And yet, as an activity that foregrounds stimulation, creativity, interaction, and open-ended uncertain outcomes, play may be a way of practicing the imagination and putting our imaginations into practice – going beyond the limits of what appears possible if we restrict ourselves to the realm of “real” change. While play can bring into being new practices, such as local currencies, it can also provide a way of representing what could be. Chiara de Cesari makes this point in relation to the “anticipatory representation” of a Palestinian state through…

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academic selves and academic careers



I visited the wonderful Department of Geography at Maynooth University a couple of weeks ago, and I was kindly invited by the Supporting Women in Geography Ireland group there to a discussion session about developing a career as an academic. I was sent a bunch of questions beforehand, which clearly articulated some of the key issues for this group: how to manage multiple demands to do different kinds of academic work, how to manage caring responsibilities with academic work, how to get on…

I don’t usually post about this sort of thing, though I do retweet about women’s experiences of academic life, on occasion. But the invitation and the questions gave me an opportunity to pull together a few thoughts around these topics, and also to reflect on how lucky I’ve been in my career: I’ve (almost) always had supportive line managers, I’ve never been asked to teach to the exclusion…

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Now online – the 2017 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture, “Retelling Stories, Disrupting ‘the Social’, Relearning the World” by Richa Nagar

The 2017 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture

Retelling Stories, Disrupting “the Social”, Relearning the World

Richa Nagar (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities)

The 2017 Antipode RGS-IBG Lecture took place on August 30th at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) in London. Those who were there will no doubt agree that it was a great event; those that weren’t can now watch a film of Richa’s presentation here, and access related Antipode papers below.

The dominant landscape of knowledge and policy rests on a fundamental inequality: bodies who are seen as hungry or precarious are assumed to be available for the interventions of experts, but those experts often obliterate the ways that the hungry actively create politics and knowledge by living a dynamic vision of what is ethical and what makes the good life. Such living frequently involves a creative praxis of refusal against imposed frameworks. For Nagar, learning from such refusals requires…

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