Antioxidants For Toxic Academic Environments – Descriptive Synonyms – Consider the Cost of Toxic

June 27, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Online Auction

I’m a word lover. My doctorate is in literacy and linguistics. I am fascinated by words, their definitions, and their Greek and Latin word roots – since it is a way of further exploring a concept. When thinking about ‘toxic’ work environments and exploring the word, it was interesting to find that ‘poison’ is the meaning for both the Greek and Latin roots of ‘toxic.’ Hmmm…makes sense, doesn’t it?

People know that toxic waste dumps contain poison. Workers (in the US and many other countries) who work around toxic materials are very clear on the safety precautions they must take to stay in compliance with the law and to protect themselves from the poisonous fumes, burns, or other means that they could be hurt. But what about when the word toxic is used more ‘metaphorically’ to apply to toxic relationships or to toxic work environments, as it is being used in this article?

If you begin thinking about the real meaning of a “toxic” academic work environment, it is deadly, and I don’t think that’s metaphorical. Here are some synonyms for toxic…see if they could also apply to what would be classified as a toxic work environment:


Whether you are working in a toxic academic work environment or not, you probably know colleagues who are. Would they be able to describe their work situation using words such as harmful, noxious, malicious, and so forth? Unfortunately, I already know the answer is ‘yes.’

Consider the stress of what happens to individuals when they try to work in a toxic academic environment. Think of the illnesses that occur because people have worn themselves down to a nub. Imagine what happens to someone’s relationships outside of work if they experience harsh, venomous attacks from ‘colleagues’ at work on a constant basis. Working in a toxic environment is an untenable situation, yet many think they can ‘survive’ it or that they have to persevere. I would beg to differ. What are your thoughts on this?

I’d be interested in hearing from you (contact info below). Sadly, toxicity exists in the academic work environment. If you would like to access a teleseminar (*Antioxidants for a Toxic Academic Work Environment*) that was hosted by Gina Hiatt of The Academic Ladder (, feel free to go to
** where I have the handouts and recording available.