Warm fuzzies in the pharmacy: The importance of being well liked


Professional success is not just about doing your job well. It's also about how you interact with co-workers.

Professional success is not just about doing your job well. And it’s not just about how you treat patients. It's also about how you interact with co-workers. Kelly Howard learned that the hard way. She shares her story here.

The importance of being well liked? Really?

Yes, really. Learn from my mistakes – it is not only important, but absolutely necessary to be well liked by your co-workers and supervisors. That is, if you want to have a successful career.

Obviously, from our patients’ perspective, our warmth and responsiveness as people and the way we engage with them is crucial as well, but that’s a different article. What I’m talking about here is the spate of recent research suggesting that your chance of being hired or promoted is directly proportional to the degree to which your supervisors and co-workers find you tolerable, likable, and enjoyable to work with.  

What didn’t work

In my previous job, I made the grievous error of believing that if I willingly worked unpaid overtime, initiated effective clinical programs, and produced stellar patient satisfaction scores, then I didn’t need to repair a broken relationship with my supervisor or expend a lot of effort to get the new administration to like me.

As I said, that was my previous job. I’m not there anymore, so obviously, I was wrong. You can be the smartest clinical pharmacist or the most efficient community pharmacist in the history of your company, but if your co-workers think you’re a jerk or your manager misperceives your lack of interest in her personal life as rude, than your tenure is likely to be short, or at the very least you won’t find a lot of raises or promotions coming your way. Is this unfair? Possibly. Is it a concrete fact of life? Absolutely.

Perception is key

As demonstrated during season after season of the television show “American Idol,” we Americans will fight for people we like, whether or not those individuals have any real discernible talent. The same is largely true in the American workplace. Employees who are well-liked are more likely to receive assistance from co-workers, be promoted, and have their mistakes forgiven.

This is not to say that I think we should be abandoning substance in favor of style. My point is that we need to recognize the importance of how we are perceived by our co-workers and manager.


Engage, participate, connect

Having thoroughly learned the importance of likability at my last job, I have devoted significant energy to increasing my congeniality factor in my current job. I genuinely like and respect my current co-workers, and to a greater degree than I did my previous co-workers, but maybe that’s simply the result of my own increased efforts to be a better co-worker.

For me, this has been less about buying their affections with fat and sugar (although I have been shameless about bringing baked goods) and more about simply being a good person. Maybe I would prefer working through lunch alone at my desk instead of eating with my fellow pharmacists family-style every day at noon, but those lunches have provided countless opportunities for me to connect with and learn more about my co-workers, and I’m ultimately better for it.

Sure, nobody is thrilled to be forced to look at 412 pictures of a co-worker’s new baby, but if others look willingly at pictures of your family, you should return the favor. These are the personal interactions that connect us to our co-workers, hold us accountable to one another in the workplace, and ultimately make the pharmacy a happier place for everyone.

You get what you give

In hindsight, I see that no amount of personality coaching, ingratiating behavior, or forced socializing could have changed my fate at my previous job. I will never be a pharmacist who prioritizes profit margins over patient care, so I would never have fit the administration’s ideal. However, the four years I toiled away at that hospital might ultimately have been more pleasant and more fairly compensated if I had simply taken the chip off my shoulder and made an effort to be more huggable.

Like this article? Read more of Kelly Howard's work here

Kelly Howard is a freelance pharmacist living and working in Southeastern N.C. Her HQ (huggability quotient) is significantly higher than it used to be. Contact her to talk about your own HQ at kelly@gottsman.org or www.thefreelancepharmacist.com

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