It cuts both ways: You need to manage your manager, just as your manager manages you.
Kelly HowardOver the past few months I’ve been thinking and writing extensively about pharmacy management, specifically how to evaluate your relationship with your own manager as it relates to your job. I’ve endured my fair share of poor managers over the years, and I’ve probably been a poor manager myself on a few occasions.
The hard truth about pharmacists is that as a breed, we are far more efficient at managing things than we are at managing people. Most pharmacy managers are shuffled into the job without qualifications or training, and too often, without the desire to take on the role at all. So what’s a well-intentioned, poorly managed pharmacist to do?
Over the course of 10 years and two dozen or so managers, I’ve figured out that your relationship with your manager must be bi-directional; you need to manage your manager, just as your manager manages you. Here are a few things I’ve learned about the fine art of managing up.
1. Know what you need. You cannot expect your manager to instinctively know what you need to perform your job to the best of your ability - especially if you haven’t yet figured it out yourself. Make a list of the tools and supportive measures you require and share that list with your manager. Any decent manager will be relieved to be freed of the need to guess, whether fulfilling your entire list is possible or not.
2. Make your intentions clear. Let your manager know, during your interview or as soon as possible after you are hired, in words or actions or both, that under no circumstances are you willing to break the law or violate a Pharmacist’s Code of Ethics, and express any moral objections you may have in regard to specific job duties.
3. Give and take. If you expect your manager to cut you occasional slack, be prepared to return the favor. You cannot hold your manager to a higher standard than the one your manager observes or the one you follow yourself.
4. Get over it and move on. Your mom was right, sometimes you just have to be the bigger person, as much as it hurts. If you can’t get over it, take a deep breath, march into your manager’s office and hash it out. Get HR involved to mediate, if you have to. Don’t fool yourself into thinking a broken relationship with your manager won’t affect your ability to care for patients.
5. Don’t act your age, especially if it happens to fall outside the 35-to-55 range. Age discrimination is an ugly reality in our profession, so avoid mentioning frat house antics from your recent past or applying for that AARP card while at work. If you’re 25 and fresh out of school, your manager is likely to have children about your age. As a result, your manager may subconsciously view you and therefore treat you as a backtalking child rather than as a dissenting colleague any time you express a differing opinion. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’re 82 and applying for a new job, your proximity to retirement and physical capabilities will factor into the hiring manager’s decision. Do be aware that your employer cannot legally ask you your age.
6. Know when to walk away. This has been perhaps the hardest lesson for me to learn. I’ve made the mistake of staying too long and the mistake of giving up too soon. Know your line in the sand, and be prepared to start seeking alternate employment if that line is crossed.
I dream of a world where every pharmacy manager is qualified and efficient, and my only complaint is that my manager is just too darned supportive. Until then, I will do my very best to manage all of my imperfect managers in our very imperfect world.
Kelly Howardis a freelance pharmacist in Southeastern N.C. She would love to hear your tips and tricks for managing up. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.thefreelancepharmacist.com, or @PharmacistKelly.