How to Fix Your Frustrated Pharmacy Team

Are you willing to form agreements with your coworkers?

A retail pharmacy was struggling with a problem every team eventually faces: a frustrated staff. One pharmacist felt a few of the technicians weren’t following through on the tasks delegated to them. The pharmacist felt justified in his anger and started to resent his manager, the other pharmacists, and the technicians.

On the flip side, the technicians felt the pharmacist was being unreasonable and his expectations were unrealistic. In fact, they saw flaws in the pharmacist’s work that they wanted to point out.

The pharmacy soon became a hostile environment. Technicians were thinking about quitting, pharmacists were looking for other jobs, and the manager didn’t know where to start to improve the situation. Work was no longer about providing quality patient care or creating a great environment; it was about suffering and negative attitudes.

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, the good news is it’s fixable—if you’re willing to form agreements with your coworkers.

Figuring It Out

In this case, the manager asked me to work with the problem group to evaluate the situation and create a solution. I started by sitting down with the pharmacist—the one who was causing all the trouble—to find out what was happening from his point of view.

I began asking questions to get to the root of problem. We talked about management, workload, and how things recently changed with pharmacy policies and procedures. Interestingly, he didn’t want to talk about the technicians at first, but when our conversation eventually arrived there, I asked questions like, “What role are the technicians failing to fulfill?” He described tasks like calling insurance companies and returning patients calls that weren’t being completed. He ultimately mentioned the follow-up work was landing on his plate.

The Crucial Question

“What have you agreed upon with your technicians?” I asked.

The pharmacist gave me a puzzled look. He said, “I haven’t talked to them. They talk to the manager, and it’s not my job to talk to them about what they’re supposed to do.”

Essentially, he had created expectations for the technicians to fill, but they didn’t even know or understand them.

Afterwards, I spoke with the technicians separately and then brought the technicians and the pharmacist together. We talked about the different roles and responsibilities that technicians could fill and the things the pharmacist must do. These were daily tasks that could be done by the pharmacists or technicians. Sure enough, the technicians and the pharmacist were able to work together to create agreements about who’s supposed to do what.

Expectations Without Agreements

The biggest problems with leaders is they have expectations for everyone, but often have no agreements. Expectations without agreements lead to anxiety because managers never know if someone is actually going to follow through. They can also create a sense of rebellion. Like it or not, we channel our inner teenager and say, “I’m not going to do what she tells me to do.”

If you’re the pharmacist in charge, what kind of relationships do you have with your technicians? Are you constantly expecting them to do certain things even though you only mentioned it once? How does that affect the work environment?

Think about what usually happens with expectations—more often than not, we end up disappointed. Why? Because others don’t understand what’s going on in our brain, especially if we don’t communicate it.

Speak Your Mind

You have to talk about the things you expect of others—and you can’t just tell them you expect them to do things. Instead, ask them to join in the conversation by saying, “Let’s create an agreement together.”

In the case of the aforementioned pharmacist (who felt disappointed and bossy at the same time) and technicians (who were slightly rebellious), it came down to the pharmacist to ask them, “What roles would you agree you need to do?” Then, the technicians told him.

Rather than taking responsibility for the problem that arose, it was so easy for everyone at this pharmacy to blame others for their problems and never take responsibility to fix them.

Fixing Your Team

If you’re having this issue, start by creating an agreement together. It takes a creative mind and an in-depth conversation, but it’s a great way to create a workplace where staff members fully understand what they must do and what they’re responsible for.

When someone’s causing trouble in your workplace, ask them, “Can we talk about our roles? Because I think I’m a little confused about what I need to do.” By asking that question, you take responsibility for the confusion.

Let’s say you have a team member who avoids patient contact and lets other technicians talk to patients. Your conversation might start with:

I’d like you to talk to people who come to the counter and not rely on other staff members, because you're important to me. You’re a leader who is capable of helping these people, and I’m not okay with you avoiding that kind of work. What do you think is reasonable? I want us to create something you can agree to.

Keeping the Agreement

Most humans hate going back on their word, so when they create an agreement with someone, they want to follow through on it.

If one party is failing to follow through on the agreement, you have hold them accountable. If someone can’t keep his or her word, how can you have a relationship based on trust? Should that individual even be working at your company?

By shifting toward agreements and away from expectations, you provide the authority, responsibility, power, and autonomy everyone is looking for in their jobs. So, go out there and start creating agreements—and ultimately freedom—for yourself and your coworkers.