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Five Traits of a Toxic Workplace

by Joanna Norman

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For years, I worked in toxic work places, and I didn’t even realize that was what was going on. I just knew that I dreaded going to work much of the time or I had terrible anxiety every morning when I woke up. Now that I work as an independent contractor, I do not dread going to work, and I rarely wake up with anxiety. (When I do, it is not work related.)

As I was reflecting on this, I did some reading and learned about toxic work environments. I realized, in retrospect, that I experienced all of these in one job or another. Do I have to even say that I DON’T MISS any of these things, AT ALL? If you are someone I worked with in the past, please don’t take this personally. What was a toxic environment for me may not have been or may not be a toxic environment for you, and that is okay. Everyone’s needs and experiences are different, right?

If you are experiencing any of these things in your current job, maybe it will be helpful to at least understand that these things can be indicators of a toxic workplace, a place that is not healthy for you to work in.

  1. Low morale.
    When the entire staff of a workplace has low morale, this is a bad sign. I may have days where I feel less motivated to work, but I don’t have low moral. I no longer spend any of my precious time complaining about my workplace or listening to others complain about it. In fact, I often find myself talking about something interesting I learned because of a transcript I’m working on.
  1. Lack of communication.
    In an workplace with an unhealthy or toxic culture, there may be a lack of communication, confusing or conflicting communication from leadership, or passive-aggressive communication between employees. Often employee input is not sought out or valued in a toxic workplace. As an independent contractor running my own transcription business, I am 100% in control of communication with my clients and the contractors I work for. It is awesome! 
  2. Fear of failure.
    I have been doing transcription successfully for over year. Because I am well-trained and can control what jobs I take on, I never have to worry about a project failing because of scope creep or lack of support from managers or … you get the idea. Nor am I surrounded by others who are working from a place of fear. I’ve been there. I don’t want that in my life anymore.
  3. High turnover.
    At one school I were I taught, I was the teacher with the longest tenure – at only five years! Most teachers stayed there 1-2 years. Such high turnover clearly indicates that it was not a place where people wanted to work. Now that I have my own business, I don’t ever have to worry about my work being affected negatively by high staff turnover.
  4. Cliques.
    The presence of cliques is a sure indication of a toxic workplace. I hated cliques when I was in school as a kid and continue to hate them in the workplace.  Somehow, I was always the one who was not mainstream enough and not in the clique. While this didn’t bother me much because I didn’t want to be in the clique, I was fascinated to learn that this is a trait of toxic work environments. Since I’m the sole proprietor of my transcription business, so this is a total non-issue as a transcriptionist. 

If you are reading through the  list of traits of a toxic workplace and recognize that you are dealing with some of all of these issues in your current job, I hope that you can find your way out. I am so much happier and healthier now that I have left all of that behind.

If you are interested in learning more about being a transcriptionist, I recommend the free course that I took at If you are ready to take the leap and become a transcriptionist, I think the best training you can get is the General Transcription Course from

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