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I’m a pharmacist and I was bullied by my dispenser

Dear Johnathan,


I noticed on social media the other day that you were running a series on bullying, specifically bullying in pharmacy. I am sad to say that I have been bullied.


I wanted others to read about my personal experience. I would like to be anonymous in every way possible. Any suspicion of an accusation or insinuation from me about bullying would be career suicide.


I have been a pharmacist for many years. I work for a large pharmacy chain. A few years ago I changed my usual store. I did not know it at the time that but that was a very bad decision. Possibly my worst decision ever. The staff at this particular store, one of the ‘well known’ chain I mentioned is known to bully their pharmacist. Numerous pharmacists have come and gone from that pharmacy. Knowing this I thought I would keep my head down and do my job but also work hard to ensure a friendly work environment. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long the bullying started almost immediately.


Let me point out I was the manager and I was been bullied by the dispenser.


It might seem far-fetched but it is true and true for other pharmacists that left before me. I had situations where the dispenser would be shouting at me in the dispensary. This dispenser would instruct other staff not to listen to me and so on. At every opportunity, the dispenser basically undermined my authority. On some occasions when I worked alone with this person the dispenser would refuse to do checks on medication that I have dispensed unless I said “please”. Don’t get me wrong I have no problem with saying please and thank you but for the dispenser to put their hands on their waist and demand “please check these items” is not fair.


I tried to put my foot down but realised I didn’t have a supportive area manager. I soon worked out that I was not going to get anywhere with taking disciplinary action of any sort. When I told my area manager about the particular incident of the dispenser not checking, essentially not doing the job of a dispenser the area manager turned around and asked if I say please when asking them to do anything. I recorded the dispenser shouting at me one day in the dispensary. I played the recording for my area manager. He just said ” you know you are not allowed to record without permission” nothing else followed.


I had all sort of issues including safety issues. I remember on one occasion a doctor from a nearby surgery called into the pharmacy, came straight into the dispensary picked a POM item off the shelf and spoke to the dispenser that he would see the dispenser later. Within seconds he had disappeared. I then asked what that was about and the dispenser said “oh that is one of our doctors from next door” to which I replied, “but he is not allowed to just pick medicine from the dispensary without a script.” I sent a requisition invoice to the doctor and he sent back the item. Apparently, he was angry and that made my situation worse because according to my dispenser I was upsetting everybody including our key stakeholder, the doctor.


It was obvious there was no appetite from my employers to do anything about the situation. Like I said the dispenser was(is) well known for bullying pharmacists within the company and we all keep wondering how they get away with it.


The dispenser had power locally. By this I mean this person had been with the company for many years. The dispenser knew almost all the customers by name and some of their relatives work there. The dispenser behaved like they own the pharmacy.


A lot more happened but eventually, my position became untenable in that store and I requested to step down as a manager and move to another store. Which is what I did. The dispenser is still there and their attitude is still the same.


The author of this blog wished to remain anonymous.

13 thoughts on “I’m a pharmacist and I was bullied by my dispenser”

  1. Anonymous comment. Johnathan, this happens all too often. I’ve been working in an environment similar to this but with my manager’s support. It’s not pleasant for any of the team. It’s gradually improving, I wouldn’t knowingly go into a similar situation again..I thought I was strong enough but… Great piece of journalism

  2. I’ve had many instances like this. I feel it’s especially more common with female pharmacists and female despensary staff. I’ve had so many experiences similar to this that I’ve even been put off working in a Pharmacy ever again. There is a massive bullying culture in the UK workplace I think.

  3. This event happens everywhere around the world but unfortunately in some countries like my country there is no legislation to deter those people, but I hope in the sooner future my country will put this legislation in force.

  4. I had a similar situation although I don’t feel that I was bullied but I didn’t feel supported. I had managed a pharmacy for 7 years with no issues as I got on with staff and patients. I then moved and decided to join another multiple, where I worked with a dispenser with hostile attitude towards me as she knew I would not let her being lazy at work. Cut a long story short, she would do everything in her powers to make my life difficult but I didn’t not retaliate as I wanted to make things work. However, I then realized that this is not going to work and I had to put my foot down. I spoke to HR and store management and also involved the area manager. This particular lady had worked there for 25 hours and thought the company owed her something. I quickly sensed that the store have history of bad politics and that I would get little support if I tried the disciplinary route. So I decided to drop the position and look for other options. Never looked back since. I think there are some things outside your control that you cannot change. Don’t waste energy, time and resources working with people that don’t appreciate your professional input. Move on, others will.

  5. Hi jonanthan nice to see you at cpc. Hadnt know you had a series on bullying otherwise wouldve raised the issue with you there and then. My friend sent this link to me.
    I’m currently 2 days left from working out my reduced notice after working for a independent pharmacy for 5 months and suffering the exact same abuse that the OP described. Staff threatening to walk out because they didn’t want to create owning slips which I requested because it was too long a process. And again the exact same emphasis on ‘please’. I’ve been manager at other pharmacies before but never experienced what was bullying harassment and abuse in my life ever. There was racial insinuations due to my ethnicity as I apparently had no understanding of ‘great British values’. Ironically the owners are the same ethnicity as I am and in the first weeks did try to help a lot But when it was clear that the member of staff who had been racist and refusing to follow instructions had to be let go, the owner backtracked citing he worried for his business. The 2 members of staff here dictate how it runs. Point of note I took over from a manager who lasted 2.5 months. I’ve been shouted at, ridiculed, my position sabotaged, they’ve even tried to make my registration come under threat by untoward means. This is just a small independent pharmacy access scheme pharmacy in a village town in leyland.
    They even had one of their friends a customer ridicule me in front of others.

    I’m glad I’m leaving. I thankfully will be leaving community pharmacy into a different career altogether. Something I probably wouldn’t not have done had I not experienced this. But I believe in my ability due to what I have achieved so far.
    One thing I’ve learned about myself is how patient I can be. I come to work and dare not say a word.
    Another thing I’ve learned.
    Hate is so pungent.

  6. I personally think if you allowed that professional code to be break into pieces then you will encounter similar situation or bully staff member. You ensured that professionalism is maintained in all aspect and circumstances and everyone else must maintained it too. You are not employed to get insulted or humiliated I.e. if an area manager is not interested to solve the situation either you escalate up the situation to senior region management or moving on.

  7. As a trainee dispenser I’m mortified that this even goes on, I’m so lucky with my team, if you have a supportive team everything runs smoothly. I would not have stood down from my position tho,

  8. A lot of issues here that needed addressing…The failings of local management in this case are staggering, all the detriment of a series of staff who have left. I must conclude they love doing interviews for new staff then and all the work that may require…………. This looks like there were serious capability issues of management to address it…

  9. I’m sorry you had to go through that and it can really suck to work with brash colleages. Just speak up for yourself, you had the position of manager too! I know it’s easier said than done but sometimes you have to show others who’s the boss, even if it can come across as aggressive. I guess the best are always the first to leave eh? To be honest, I feel as if I actually work at the same pharmacy you left. Truly. The bully dispenser lives on…

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