Throughout my career I worked for some pretty awful companies. They were awful mostly because a couple of key people at the top were successful in creating a toxic work culture. Exclusion, discrimination, and bullying were the daily norm. Every time I tendered my resignation at one of these toxic companies I would come down very hard on myself for not finding a way to make it work. I started asking myself if I was the problem.
Fast forward to 2015 and I now have my own business where I use my experience to help companies improve employee engagement and productivity and help people build meaningful careers. From my coaching clients I often hear the same question I used to ask myself: "Is it me?"
The answer to that question comes in two parts. First, we are not responsible for the behaviour of others. It is not your fault if the CEO runs his company with a command and control style of leadership and you can't do anything about the co-worker who has a permanent dark cloud over their head. The second part of the answer, however, is that while you can't control anyone else's behaviour, you are responsible for how you show up for work every day and for taking the initiative to develop the skills you need to deal with the challenges you are facing in your job.
Before you quit your job there are two things you need to know that can help you deal with a difficult work environment as well as the critical element that will impact your happiness in this job or the next one.
Difficult people are mobile.
Wherever you work you will likely find at least one person who is challenging to work with. It is a law of nature that when you have a mix of personalities along with varying levels of work ethic there will be some conflict.
This is why quitting your job may not change anything. Running away won't solve anything because you could find more of the same. Dealing with difficult people is a skill set that you can build.
Do your research before switching jobs.
If I have learned anything from my experience it is that toxic workplaces do exist. And, try as you might to be the best employee that you can be, you likely won't be able to change them. The reason is that the people at the top are either oblivious about the toxic culture or they are the ones creating it.
I would never encourage anyone to keep working for a toxic organization. So, if you feel that quitting your job is your only option take the time to do the necessary research to find good companies. Ask around to gauge a company's reputation and check business publications to find the 'best places to work' list.
In the meantime, there are strategies for coping with difficult work situations until you find something else. These solutions can all be found by strengthening the same ingredient that is also responsible for your happiness work.
The secret ingredient that can help you be happy at work.
You've likely heard of the term emotional intelligence by now and how all of the research points to the fact that emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the secret weapon for success. It is also the "thing" that will help you deal with difficult people and find more fulfilling work.
But how exactly does it impact your level of happiness in your job?
High EQ has been linked to job satisfaction and this makes sense for many reasons. Emotional intelligence is our ability to manage our emotions and understand the emotions of others. It includes elements of self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal relationships, decision-making, and stress management. Each element has an impact on your success and satisfaction at work and improving these elements can help you find the right job and deal with difficult work situations.
The self-perception realm of emotional intelligence includes self-actualization, or our ability to realize our own potential capacities. This ability manifests in our work when we choose meaningful work or activities that also make us excited. If your self-actualization is underdeveloped it could mean that you are making career choices based on outside factors such as money or job security rather than on the kind of work that would make you happy. The more in tune you are with the things that excite you the more likely you will be to choose more of what lets your light shine. The more you let your light shine, the happier you will be.
If you are certain that moving on from your current job is your only option take the time to get in touch with what type of work really made you happy in the past. Ask yourself when were you the happiest in your job and what was it about that job that made you happy.
Another element of emotional intelligence that has a big impact on success is within the interpersonal realm, empathy. Empathy is the ability to be aware of, understand, and appreciate the feelings and thoughts of others. It can be hard to put your own emotions aside when dealing with difficult people and think about what the other person is feeling. But, attempting to understand the underlying feelings behind someone's behaviour is exactly the tool you need to deal with challenging people. Always assume that people are doing the best they can with what they have in this moment.
There are many other elements of emotional intelligence and they all come together to help you have a successful life and career. So, before you change jobs start by assessing and strengthening your emotional intelligence. Because, the key to finding work that you love is to truly know yourself and understand what will make you happy. And, the key to managing relationships starts with understanding others.
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