Our dysfunctional family

May 5, 2010

There is room for individual expression in our workplace; however, in a profession such as pharmacy, the main effort should be dedicated to patient care rather than how to successfully navigate the toxic personalities in the pharmacy.

Key Points

Sure enough, I was not alone in my observation. By the time I reached my fifth job I started to think about what it meant.

See whether you recognize these personalities in your practice setting.

Drama Dana, who commands attention and sucks all the energy out of the room with her daily pronouncements of woe and trouble.

Selling Suzie, who sees the workplace as a market for her home business or her children's school fundraisers.

Marty Martyr, who constantly whines about how hard he works and how little everyone else does.

Passive-Aggressive Patti, the sweetest woman you've ever met - until you leave the room.

Entitled Esther, who excuses herself from duties she considers beneath her dignity.

Scattered Sandy, who is forever distracted from her duties by any and every little thing.

Conspiracy Charlie, with his daily installment of how the company is out to get him.

Verbal Val, for whom talking is her main vocation. Unfortunately, when she starts talking, she stops working.

Agitator Alice, who hates it when there's harmony or calm. She is able to create trouble, strife, and division out of mere dust.

Vicky Volume, who is unaware that her voice is loud enough to wake the dead.

Messy Marvin, who within minutes can change any workspace into a hazardous waste area.

Excuses Evelyn, who is always tired or sick and is ever ready to tell you why she is unable do her job.

Graveyard Glen, who gets away with bad behavior and poor performance because it would be hard to replace him.

See anyone you recognize? How did all this bad behavior find its way into our pharmacies?

Human beings have complex needs and personalities. As a result we see many complex behaviors at work. Our busy, stressful environment can bring out the worst in people. In the many hours we spend together every week we see every part of each person's personality, the good and the bad.

We can think about these things in different ways. One is to take the approach that these behaviors are normal and that little can be done. Another is to recognize that we are in a professional environment with high intellectual and behavioral expectations. In our work setting, the things I have described are intrusive, selfish, and counterproductive.

The question now becomes "Why does all this bad behavior continue?" The answer is leadership. The culture and conduct in every pharmacy is set and maintained by its leaders. These behaviors exist and persist because they are allowed to. Confronting them takes dedication, time, effort, and courage.

Does it matter whether these issues are left unaddressed? The answer is an unqualified yes. Vast amounts of time and resources are lost to these disruptions. The needs, concerns, and contributions of the competent are usurped by those who are loud and dramatic. When all employees receive the same rewards regardless of behavior or productivity, those who put in extra effort will stop doing so.

Please understand me; I am not saying that there is no room for individual expression or personality in our workplace. I am saying that in a profession such as ours, our main effort should be dedicated to patient care rather than to how to successfully navigate the toxic personalities in the pharmacy.

Mike Lahr is a clinical pharmacist with Salem Regional Medical Center in Oregon. He can be reached by e-mail at mikelahr@aol.com
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