IIM-I Study: Trivialisation & Affliction Are Disturbing Dimensions Of Workplace Gaslighting

IIM-I Study: Trivialisation & Affliction Are Disturbing Dimensions Of Workplace Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of abuse typically inflicted by plunging the victim into self-doubt by a likely narcissistic perpetrator.

Atul GautamUpdated: Saturday, February 10, 2024, 04:23 AM IST
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IIM Indore |

Indore (Madhya Pradesh): In a pioneering study, the Indian Institute of Management Indore found that workplace gaslighting is a second-order construct with two underlying dimensions: trivialisation and affliction. “Trivialisation is the supervisor's acts that undercut the subordinates' perceptions, fears, and realities.

On the other hand, affliction refers to the anguish that the supervisor inflicts on the subordinate,” the study states. The research conducted by Prof Jatin Pandey and DPM 2020 batch participant Priyam Kukreja, which is titled “Workplace Gaslighting: Conceptualisation, Development, and Validation of a Scale”, has brought the often-overlooked issue of gaslighting in the workplace to the forefront.

“Despite a growing body of research on workplace harassment, little emphasis has been paid to the conceptualisation of gaslighting and how it can be measured. This study sought to fill this gap by conceiving and constructing a measure of comprehending the level of gaslighting endured at work,” Pandey said.

Drawing from existing work on hazardous leader behaviours, workplace abuse, and workplace mistreatment, the authors theorised the idea of gaslighting in a new context, namely work settings, and defined its dimensions. The study created a new 12-item measure of gaslighting in work interactions, the Gaslighting at Work Questionnaire (GWQ), using samples across 679 employees and the findings demonstrated that gaslighting is a second-order construct.

The authors then suggested a more precise definition of gaslighting as an unscrupulous workplace behaviour in which a person in a position of power trivialises and oppresses subordinates.

“The proposed definition meets the requirements outlined by researchers such as Granstrand and Holgersson because it fills ‘an empirical and theoretical void, has sufficient precision, parsimony, and logical consistency without circularity, is operationalizable, qualifiable, typological, and usable for taxonomies, and is syntactically and semantically consistent with the prevalent conceptualizations of related topics,’” Pandey said.

The study also reinforced damaging leader behaviours and also uncovered some similarities between gaslighting at work, bullying, abusive supervision, and toxic leadership, as well as useful insights into the nature and repercussions of gaslighting conduct.

The study offers researchers and practitioners the tools to identify and address gaslighting behaviour at the workplace. The GWQ scale provides new opportunities to understand and quantify a supervisor's gaslighting actions toward their subordinates while significantly contributing to the current literature on hazardous leader behaviours, workplace abuse, and mistreatment by emphasising the significance of detecting and assessing gaslighting at work.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of abuse typically inflicted by plunging the victim into self-doubt by a likely narcissistic perpetrator. This meaning is derived from the first use of the word in a 1938 stage play named Gaslight, where a husband tricks his wife into believing that she is insane so that he can get his way around committing a crime.

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