Human Nature

       Human nature never ceases to amaze and confuse me.  Just when I think I’ve figured out the human condition, I am thrown yet another curveball in life.  Working retail pharmacy, you start to see lots of those curveballs. 

       I’ve been known to say that working directly with the public is a case study in the human condition.  And working in the community pharmacy setting, you definitely see the extremes of human nature. 

       I tend to forget when dealing with patients and customers that they might be under a lot of stress.  Who knows what is going on in their lives or the lives of a loved one?  An illness, death, or stress might be troubling them.

      When I see someone get angry at me or be hateful, I tend to assume they’re singling me out.  It’s a habit I need to break.  Often, I am not the root of their troubles.   

      The irony though of blaming bad behavior on circumstance is that it ignores our ability to control our emotional response.  It can seem like a sad excuse to blame a person’s anger on an illness.  But that very well might be the case.

       Some people have the ability to weather their personal storms more effectively than others.  While others seem to take out every little frustration on anyone who’s available. 

       As a pharmacist, I’m trying to learn how to react to difficult or hateful customers more effectively.  But it isn’t easy and I tend to make the false assumption that they’re singling me out for some reason.   I also have this stubborn attitude that I deserve respect.  Is that really asking too much from the general public? 

      In reality, the anger and frustrations displayed from the other side of the pharmacy counter have little or nothing to do with the pharmacy staff.  We are the perfect scapegoats simply by being accessible to patients.   We are there, so the anger flows to us. 

      I’ll admit that the anger displayed by some of my patients is enough to drive me away from community pharmacy.  But just when I feel the most frustrated, I’m thrown a curveball.  Someone stops to thank me for my efforts or shakes my hand in appreciation of my work. 

      Occasionally, you can even see it in the eyes of patients.  They are thankful for whatever you are doing for them.  They want relief from whatever brought them to your pharmacy.  Even if they don’t verbalize it, they are thankful. 

      I’ve come to the realization that community pharmacy will throw you curveballs.  Those curveball are just part of the job.  It’s life on display at a retail pharmacy near you. 

The Redheaded Pharmacist

5 Comments to “Human Nature”

  1. By Pharmaciststeve, January 17, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

    IMO… those people that are always a irritant and/or seemingly have a chip on their shoulder.. have gotten that way because many in business still work under the premise that the consumer is always right… when in fact some of the customers are always a pain in the ass. As a business, we want their money so bad that we will put up with all their crap.

    All people deserve respect.. not just you or we RPH’s.. those who don’t have the right upbringing or engrained civility… needs to be dealt with in an entirely different way. Not necessarily reflex back the attitude they are handing out.. but.. a sort of “tough love”

    “.. I am here to try and help you.. but.. your demeanor is making that hard for me to do that …” then he/she doesn’t relent.. “.. I am here to provide a service… but.. I do not feel that I should be treated like a servant or slave…” If they still won’t relent… “.. I am sorry that we cannot reach a point of civility between us… and I don’t think that we will be able to provide you any services today and ask that you leave the store …”

    These type of customers… tend to increase the staff’s stress level… take up more staff time that should be necessary… and in the end.. causes the staff to provide poorer service to all the pts behind them.


  2. By pharmacy chick, January 18, 2013 @ 9:03 pm

    Redhead, I would have to say there is NO justification for being rude to anybody and that applies to BOTH sides of the counter. I really dont care if there is illness, death, disease, pain, suffering or depression going on. Because we ALL have that crap to deal with in our lives. Setbacks are a part of life and in no way should be an excuse be a bully to lay into somebody else.

    I get a little tired of justifying bad behavior because of some issue in our lives. Are we so weak a creature that setbacks cause us to be inappropriate to other people? We need to grow up and behave like the adults we claim to be. temper outbursts are for toddlers

    Ive had horrible things happen in my life. who hasnt?? My mother dying at home of cancer …so does that mean I can treat the checker at the grocery store with disdain ? No it does not.

    we need to learn civility, and cordialness in all aspects of our lives, both good and bad. There is no excuse for the crap we take. There really isn’t.

    My friend and mentor has words that I think are good advice for us all ” Suck it up and put your big-girl pants on baby!”


  3. By Timed and Dangerous, January 19, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

    Every human deserves respect. But the reality is, every human has some breaking point – some spot on a continuum where the right stressor will completely obliterate their sense of decency and civility. Blame it on limbic activation, blame it on poor parenting, society, mental illness, the list goes on. It sounds like in the case of Pharmacy Chick, that threshold is probably pretty high. And unfortunately for those of us in retail, some humans are stuck on the lower side of the spectrum to permanently remain as raging assholes who bully and intimidate everybody they come across. But whatever’s causing the behavior, we are in a particularly vulnerable spot to catch the brunt of it.

    This brings me to my geeky analogy (bear with me):

    Shows like Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, the Walking Dead…. Stories about vampires and werewolves and zombies etc are so pervasive in our culture because they are *really* about the human condition. One of these shows is even called “Being Human” and has not one but *two* versions (British and North American). These shows do a great job at animating an ongoing struggle with the inner monsters in ourselves and in those around us that I think resonates with a lot of people.

    If you couldn’t tell by now, I read and watch too much scifi/fantasy in my spare time. That’s why I sometimes envision my work setting as a well lit cage being circled werewolves during their individual versions of a full moon (full moon meaning some stressor like pain, recent cancer diagnosis, sick child, health care system bureaucracy, what have you). Yes, absolutely empathy and compassion can go a long way in diffusing the disruptive and damaging behavior unleashed by people in their “ware” state. (“Compassion fatigue” that RN’s talk about is a whole other Pandora’s his here).
    To those of us that are at baseline “people pleasers,” this comes more naturally but probably sucks us dry in a huge hurry. For the full-time “monsters”, yeah, you have to drive a steak though their hearts (get rid of them, lose them as a customer) in order to take care of the dozens of other patients that stack up behind this monster during their rant. Problem is, if the steel cage you’re trapped inside belongs to a corporate chain, you aren’t usually given the silver bullets or wooden stake or what have you in order to defend yourself. In other words (for those who aren’t following my analogy here) there is often a lot of pressure in chains to retain customers, *every* customer who walks through the door. If the bully’s behavior does not fall within the limited legal definition of harassment, then don’t count on a lot of backup from your superiors.

    I have a couple decades under my belt now in an environment where the threat of bullying from John Q. Public lurks somewhere in the line at the register or in every yet-to-be answered phone call. You would thing I’d have some magic answer on how to psychology and emotionally cope with all this. Nope. Still working on that one. Like Redhead here, I take the Kudos where I can get them.


  4. By BCMIGAL, January 19, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

    You go,chick! You are correct, there is NO excuse for mistreatment. If I told you about my life, most of you would be very surprised. I just don’t advertise and really really try not to take it out on anyone especially someone who is doing his/her best to help me. I have no sympathy for those who left their manners at home. We are all “made to the image and likeness” of the same DNA and we should have the utmost respect for that.


  5. By Peon, January 21, 2013 @ 7:18 pm

    The more you work in pharmacy, I think the more you will come to recognize that the rude customers often have a problem. You may not be aware of it. We are dealing with sick people. They may be feeling terrible. When they get angry, I don’t usually take it personally. This is something you come to realize, that it is not something personally against you, the patient is just lashing out. I think this is what happens most of the time. Then, there are the crazies. These folks are just crazy. How do you handle them? Do you give them a little more slack than the normal person? In the final category, we have those ‘mean’ folks. They are just bad. Those are the ones that I don’t feel we need to tolerate. The corporations based their assumption on the ‘customer being right’ years ago. When I started in pharmacy, over 40 years ago, if a customer had a complaint, they were right 95% of the time. Boy, has that changed today! Today, when a customer complains, they are wrong 95% of the time.

    I don’t believe there is one way to handle customers. Each situation is unique. No simple formula will do. It takes years of experience to gain insight into the diversity of situations and how to handle them. It is not something that a company can teach you with a CBL or a video. It is something you learn from experience.


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