Bruised, battered and broken. These are the words I would use to describe my emotional state having experienced bullying in pharmacy.
As someone who has been described as hardworking, conscientious and competent, I used to think if I do a good job, I will be respected and valued in my workplace. I couldn’t be more wrong. Since qualifying, the hierarchy and power dynamic of the senior management teams in hospital pharmacy has repeatedly resulted in bullying and harassment as a standard “style” of management. I speak as a victim and a witness and know too well that this damages the health and well-being of keen and aspiring pharmacists, but also creates a vortex, draining hope and ambition from such individuals.
As I look at the pharmacy hierarchy in a hospital pharmacy department, I see a stale and stifling climate, where ambition and drive are beaten out of you, where innovation and quality improvement initiatives suggestions are quashed within the same breath and kindness to others and fairness of opportunity is simply a mirage.
I began a pharmacy career with the belief that my understanding of scientific principles of objectivity, experimentation and establishing facts would hold me in good stead as a hospital pharmacist. How wrong was I. None of these skills are used high up in the heady heights of senior hierarchy? My experience of senior managers is they are biased, rude, egotistical, selective and instil fear in the department. They aren’t interested in the facts. They look to find a reason to punish. It might be denying a holiday request, unrealistic expectations of how many patients can be seen or stopping you from speaking when you are being unfairly lambasted by them. They also have their groupies, who cheer and sneer along with the chief bully which intensifies the moment and adds layers of humiliation. These groupies are usually the next most senior members of the pharmacy department.
My experiences of bullying include openly being undermined, insulted and forced to agree to things without time to consider the request. I have been told to make up for the time lost from sickness, which happened because I was working over 45 hours a week routinely due to the work pressures, whilst my manager relaxed and holidayed with family, knowing full well I was working beyond my agreed hours and needed support to manage workload and expectation. I know of lies about me and those associated with me said and emailed to others in the department. These instances were by all people that were my seniors and the most senior member of the department.
I usually feel anxious at work and I have no support around me. I feel alone in a building filled with people paid to make people better. Is that really what I should feel when I go to do my job?
I often wonder why do those in a position of power feel so threatened and show aggression to those simply keen to do the best they can? I often wonder why they work in packs, attacking innocent prey who aren’t provoking or attacking them. Questions I probably won’t find answers to. And questions David Attenborough can’t answer either. Apparently, as humans, we operate above our primitive instincts.
During my career in hospital pharmacy, I have found it is not conducive to professional growth, career progression or opportunity. It has sapped all the good feelings towards pharmacy out of me. I feel disheartened by what I have experienced and truly can’t see that this endemic will change anytime soon. We need good people to change this, but good people don’t damage people to get to the top and good people get beaten down by those in power. The bullies have allies and calling out their behaviour only makes it worse for the victims.
Is there bullying in hospital pharmacy?
Without a doubt, yes.
The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous