Should I stay or should I go? Navigating poor pharmacy management


What will you do when you find yourself in a job you love, working for an inadequate manager?

Kelly HowardHaving spent 10 years toiling as a pharmacist under roughly two dozen managers, I know two facts to be true: Our society rewards good work with more work, and great worker bees do not necessarily make effective managers.

If you’ve been a staff pharmacist for any length of time, you are likely to be familiar with the Peter Principle, the concept that individuals are promoted until they reach the level of their incompetence. This practice is so prevalent practice in pharmacy that I often joke we may as well rename it “The Pheter Phrinciple.”

See also: The crisis in pharmacy management

What to do?

Poor management is something pharmacists are likely to encounter throughout our careers. What will you do when you find yourself in a job you love, working for an inadequate manager? Do you stay for the wonderful job, or do you leave in hopes of finding efficiently managed greener pastures?

Having endured the entire spectrum of management, I now know that the solution to this conundrum lies in treating your relationship with your manager as just that - a relationship. In our personal relationships, we all have our stakes, our “hard Nos,” our deal breakers, our lines in the sand. We tend to know exactly what qualities to seek out or avoid in potential friends and companions. Chances are, though, that you’ve never thought to apply this basic principle to your professional relationships - at least not consciously.

See also: Note to pharmacists: When it comes to the company P&P manual, ignorance is NOT bliss

Managers I have known

When I was not long out of school, I had a manager who raised micromanagement to high art. I can recall receiving an e-mail that chastised me for leaving the cap off a yellow highlighter and threatened to deduct the 80-cent cost from my next paycheck. I left that job shortly thereafter.

Some years later, in a different hospital, I received an order for a pediatric patient that I deemed inappropriate and possibly dangerous. After consulting a pediatric pharmacist, conducting an exhaustive literature search, and being yelled at and subsequently hung up on by the ordering physician when I tried to discuss alternatives, I made the decision to refuse to fill the order as written.

I put in a courtesy call to my manager, who agreed the dose was dangerous, but advised me to fill the order anyway and simply place a note in the comment field, stating, “I do not agree with dose, but doctor insisted,” solely for the sake of further angering that particular high-ranking physician.

I can say with pride that I did not fill that order, much to the physician’s rage and my manager’s irritation. I should have known, right then and there, that that manager would never have my back, would never be the supportive mentor I needed.


20-20 hindsight

Experience and introspection tell me that perhaps I gave up too soon in the first case and stayed far too long in the second. I have since figured out that “infinitesimal management” is not actually on my list of deal breakers. As it turns out, I have only two items in the “hard No” category where my manager is concerned: (1) putting patient care second to anything else and (2) inherent laziness.

The manager in the second case was clearly willing to allow patient safety to take a backseat to a doctor’s ego, and I regret that I stuck around long enough to witness countless examples of this practice.

In retrospect, I have been able to pinpoint exactly what I will and won’t tolerate from a manager in the same way that adulthood has taught me what I will and won’t tolerate from my personal relationships. Identifying our deal breakers is just the first step in learning to manage the people who manage us.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the story: “Seasoned hospital pharmacist seeks qualified manager, serious applicants only.”

Kelly Howardis a freelance pharmacist living and working in Southeastern N.C. She would love to hear about your deal breakers in a manager. Contact her atkelly@gottsman.orgor, or on Twitter @PharmacistKelly.


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