2 min read

It’s time we talked about how companies are gaslighting us

Yes, companies are waking up to the well-being needs of employees. But the approach needs some serious work.
It’s time we talked about how companies are gaslighting us
Photo by Vladimir Fedotov / Unsplash

Sustain issue #43 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

Dear company,

It’s time we talked. We know the last two years have been challenging for you. But they’ve also been challenging for us employees.

We’ve shouldered the world crumbling on a near daily basis. But the real icing on the cake has been your continued gaslighting of us.

A strong word choice? Yes. Factually accurate? Also yes.

If you’re not familiar, gaslighting is typically defined as manipulating someone by psychological means so they question their own sanity or twist their sense of reality.

So we don’t use this term lightly.

Let us give you a few examples of this in the corporate world:

  1. That managing your burnout session you made me attend on my lunch break. Sorry, but a 60-minute session (when we should be taking a break) is not going to fix the problem that we aren't in full control of.
  2. That subscription to a meditation app and gym reimbursement. You’ve made a pretty big deal about your robust new wellbeing program this year. But we don’t necessarily want benefits. That’s only good as the cherry on top after the culture – the real work – has been fixed.
  3. We got docked on our performance review for not being great at time management or prioritizing. Sure we can always get better at that, but given the onslaught of work that’s all somehow a top priority, we’re always going to fail in this regard.
  4. You offer us a raise or a bonus (if we’re lucky) to try and sweep all the other crap under the rug. But you may have noticed, what’s important to us has changed a lot in the last few years. We don’t want what is essentially an outside of court settlement for your wrongdoing, we want a job we can like most days and that actually cares about us.  

We’d like for you to take a good hard look at the company, the culture, the types of things that get applauded – like working through the weekend to close a deal. It’s not fair for you to place the responsibility fully on us to stay well while excusing yourself. That’s gaslighting.

These examples don’t even touch on low-skilled frontline jobs. That’s a whole different issue.

The employer-employee relationship is tough. We work because we need to pay our bills. You hire us because you want to squeeze as much productivity from us as possible. We don’t typically have a lot of leverage in the relationship, especially since you’ll try to bust a union if you catch wind of that idea. But in the last few months, we employees have newfound leverage.

4.5 million Americans quit in November, the largest month of quits ever. Instead of doubling down on your retention strategies of yesterday, it might be a good time to think of some new ones. Ones that actually put your people – you know, the ones you always call your most valuable asset – at the center.


Your employees

Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to eliminate burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it even though I never found a playbook for doing so. So, I'm writing it myself.

✉️ Want my top tips? I share my full step-by-step playbook in How I Quit Burnout, my premium newsletter. Get the next one delivered straight to your inbox >

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