Firing pharmacy employees has never been one of my favorite tasks but it has always been necessary as part of my job.

I try to seek alternatives in place of firing people because I consider it the final measure.  I’ve fired several people during my career, but only after I’ve exhausted my options and no alternatives exist.

Throughout the process, though, I’ve always kept these questions in mind when firing someone became necessary.


1.  How should I decide whether to fire a pharmacy employee?

I never want my anger to cloud my judgement. If I’m firing someone, it’s usually safe to assume I’m angry or annoyed, so I work to keep my composure.

Asking the following questions helps me do that:

1) Do I really need to fire the person?

2) Are there alternatives or other options available?

3) Do I need to fire the person immediately?

4) Is this the first time he has committed such an action? 

5) Should I give him another chance?

6) Is he a new employee? 

7) Has he worked here for many years?

8) Am I being consistent in my actions? 

9) Would I fire my best employee under the same circumstances?

10) Have I spoken to the person previously? 

11) Do I have any documentation?

12) Am I using this firing procedure as a reason to get rid of an employee?

My answers to these questions usually guide me in one direction or another. Question #9 (Would I fire my best employee under the same circumstances?) is usually the toughest to answer.


2.  Do I have the sole authority to fire the person?

The answer to this is usually no.

When I worked as a pharmacy manager for a hospital, the decision to fire someone wasn’t solely my own.  If ever an employee committed an act that was so severe that the person had to be fired immediately, I did not have the opportunity to do so. Instead, I had to meet with Human Resources and my boss before taking any action. The person was eventually fired, but it was a group decision.


3.  Have I chosen my words carefully?

A colleague once told his staff that if a certain task wasn’t done promptly that “heads will roll.” I was amazed because the task was so simple that it could easily have been done without threatening people.

The staff mocked my colleague afterward, saying things like, “We had better get back from lunch on time or heads will roll.” Or “I had better wear my white jacket when I go visit the nursing station or heads will roll.”  They capitalized on his mistaken words.

On the flip side, at a department manager’s meeting, a vice-president addressed the crowd this way:

“I hope that everyone had time to prepare for tomorrow’s inspection because you may not get another chance.”

The message was subtle since the VP really never said that anyone would be fired. Even so, my fellow managers and I realized the serious repercussions that might occur.


4.  What happens next?

In my favorite fictional television sitcom, the lead actress worked at a news station. One day, she was given a directive from her boss to fire the sports reporter. For the remainder of the show, she agonized and fretted over how she was going to fire him.

Right before this news program went on the air, the actress gathered enough courage to fire the sports reporter. 

She was pleased that it all worked out but her relief was short-lived.  When the news anchor introduced a story about a Major League Baseball player, there was no sports reporter to share it.

Firing someone always has consequences.

My boss had never liked my night pharmacist because he was rude to the nurses. He wanted me to get rid of him, so I created a file.  I wrote him up, spoke with him, and developed a plan of action to help him keep his job. 

My boss wanted him fired immediately because he continued getting complaints about the pharmacist, so  I decided to fire him at the end of the week.

Several days before he was due to be fired, it dawned on me that I had no plan to cover the night shift. I was firing the night pharmacist and it would take several months to replace him. 

Who was working that night?  And what about next week?  And possibly the month after?  I was about to fire the night pharmacist, but I had no plan to cover his shift.

Firing a person creates a hole, and the time to fill that hole is before you create it. If you don’t plan ahead to fill that hole, you’ll be left with a bigger problem.

Although firing employees will rarely be pleasant, it’s a necessary part of leadership. When you’re thoughtful about the process and the decision to do it, you’ll decrease the impact and reduce the negative consequences.

By asking yourself important questions ahead of time, you can ensure you’re making the best decision for your organization.



About the Author

Daniel Shifrin is a recently retired pharmacist who enjoys sharing his insights about hospital pharmacy.  He is proud to own one of the largest collections of Pharmacy Stamp First Day Covers.




4 Questions to Consider Before Firing Pharmacy Employees