Beth Lofgren, PharmD, BCPS
Beth Lofgren, PharmD, BCPS
Beth Lofgren, PharmD, BCPS, received her PharmD degree from the University of Tennessee at Memphis in 1999, after completing a BS at the University of Tennessee at Martin. She started her pharmacy career in retail and has practiced in home health, long-term care, and hospital pharmacy. She has also been blogging as the Blonde Pharmacist since 2004, focusing on education for peers and provider status for pharmacists.

How to Survive a Negative Pharmacy Culture

AUGUST 10, 2015
A negative culture in the pharmacy can diminish morale.

As Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf once said, “People leave their manager; they don’t leave companies.” If the leader of the pharmacy doesn’t try to change a negative culture, people will start leaving.

Pharmacy may be a little tighter in the employment arena thanks to an increase in pharmacy schools. But remember, it still costs an employer money to train pharmacists to work on its system and learn new processes that are specific to the company.

How do you know if you are in a negative work environment? If morale is low and there is a lot of chronic stress, then it is possible that the job environment is to blame. Immature leadership may be lacking empathy and support, along with accountability. Poor communication and criticizing employees before asking questions can also make things worse. Being hypocritical and showing favoritism can erase trust.

One thing that seems to be common in pharmacy is only receiving negative feedback. A pharmacist may check thousands of orders correctly in a retail pharmacy, and a single error could be the only feedback he or she receives. Over time, even the most confident pharmacist craves a little positive feedback.

For those who want to give a little time to see what happens, or need time to find a new job, here are some tips for dealing with a difficult work environment.

1. Switch from an "I" focus to an "Other" focus
One of my friends recently told me that no matter what he does, he does not want to bring anyone down during the day with anything he says. Instead, he wants to listen to others and see how he can help them.

This can be translated to pharmacy management very easily by jumping in and helping out, even when it is not in the job description. Pharmacists can turn around and do the same with technicians, and both pharmacists and technicians can help nurses deliver better care to their patients. If you always keep the patient first ("Other"), then you cannot go wrong. Helping one another in the department builds teamwork and improves morale.

2. Exercise
There is nothing more fulfilling than taking your frustrations out on a punching bag or hitting the pavement on a long run. Endorphins are released, and suddenly a lot of the day-to-day drivel is worked out in your head by the time your heart rate is back to normal. Plus, it is healthy for you and will make you feel better.

Set a goal to complete that requires a workout plan. Run a 5K or a marathon. Complete a triathlon. Take up a new yoga class. Do something that is physically challenging and watch your negative environment become less stressful.

3. Join a support group outside of work
Find a group of friends outside of work that can give you nonbiased, truthful advice. Relying on friends at work can backfire because everyone has a goal in mind, and you don’t want to be the one who speaks for the group, thus becoming a target.

Culture-related issues are rarely solved at work anyway. Plus, your friends outside of work may have their own venting to do, which can help you see that similar problems are everywhere.

4. Try to be positive at work
This one is tough for some to do, but attempting to be positive, even when you don't feel like it, can lift the spirits of those around you. If you cannot be positive, then be neutral. Find the positive in your job, whether it is a coworker who has a great sense of humor or the patient who thanked you for helping them.

If you have down time, use it to read something related to the job or do anything other than complaining about the current situation. It won’t solve anything and will only bring you down.

5. See the big picture
Remember that this job is not forever; it is just a stepping stone to another better opportunity. Work on the skills that you will need to find a new job, like your resume and interview techniques. Network in your area and meet people who can help you find another job. Or  maybe the big picture is focusing on improving where you are now. Things can always change.

A tough work environment is a challenge for most employees at least once during their career. Hopefully, these tips will help on deciding whether staying or leaving is the best option. It would do you no good to leave your job for an employer with worse issues.

In the meantime, focus on serving others and find the positive in every single day, and then hopefully things will improve.

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