I worked as a temporary duty pharmacy manager two years ago for some months. I experienced racism and psychological bullying.
This experience took a mental toll on me. I have not been able to apply for any permanent role as a pharmacist since my experience for fear of been discriminated again thus I have been locuming since my temporary contract ended.
My former manager was younger than I was. We were coursemates in the same university and both graduated in the same year.
Despite that, I respected her and did my best to please her but my best was never good enough.
I was overjoyed when I heard she was to be my manager prior to the employment and imagined we would work in collaboration. I pictured in my head getting all the relevant training I needed to boost my skills so I could practise with confidence. I imagined working in a serene environment while ensuring the staff around me were comfortable and happy.
Little did I know what was to come.
Another manager, who was a pharmacy technician, and also a dispenser currently working in the store did not like me at all for reasons best known to them. Both were sarcastic to me and made funny facial expressions. The pharmacy technician and the dispenser did this behind my back when I spoke with an accent.
I never once insulted them or made them uncomfortable.
I ignored and pretended I did not see what they did for fear of being reported to one of the other managers who I knew would defend them. I ensured I was nice to all the staff and behaved professionally until my contract was terminated. I remained professional despite the maltreatment I received.
They complained to my manager about every trivial issue about me. My manager was very close to them and could not make most decisions without consulting the pharmacy technician and the dispenser first. My manager would confront me in a weekly meeting we had about any complaint whether trivial or not.
My manager was the pillar of the maltreatment I received. Whenever we had a meeting during my employment, she documented everything. I did not understand the reason for this initially until a different manager explained to me that the forms she used could be used to decide whether I could be hired on a permanent basis in the company. If no positive feedback was documented about me after exhausting the forms then disciplinary action could be taken against me in the future.
I did not bother to apply for a permanent role after the contract ended because the whole experience made me depressed and diffident.
Moreover, I cannot work in an environment where I was disrespected and made fun of.
She complained about things I did not do sometimes because she relied on her favourite team member’s feedback about me since she was not at work with me sometimes. She documented every single mistake I made. This included both the ones reported to her or not.
Mistakes such as ordering a particular product twice despite having checked the order on the system in her presence. These type of things were never left out of her report about me.
She interrogated me about trivial events. I was working in fear of the unknown.
Despite this, I treated the staff with kindness. The two ladies mostly refused to approach me or correct me if they feel I made a mistake. They went straight to report me to my manager.
There was a controlled drug dispensing error made by a locum pharmacist. This locum was friends with my manager. I was not at work at all on that day. My manager picked up on the offence and turned her annoyance towards me. My name was taken and she badmouthed me to the rest of the team even though I had not actually made the error. My mistake was that I did not order the product for a patient because I erroneously thought we had the product. The patient representative came to pick the medicines the next day but unfortunately, one of the products was not ordered and they were in dire need of it.
She once complained to a co-manager that I was, ‘too nice’ and needed to be tough.
A lot happened during that time. I could go on.
I described a snippet of my encounter in the pharmacy to the Area Manager and my insurance company but was told I could not make a grievance complaint because I was employed for such a short period of time.
I could not prove the psychological bullying and racism I suffered.
My manager had a pen and paper as her weapon. I had nothing to prove myself. Not even my speech or tears.
The experience changed my perspective. It made me diffident. It made me question if my black colour and height were to be blamed. I questioned myself constantly about where I went wrong. Families and friends could not rest from my incessant complaints because I needed closure.
I remain grateful to a wonderful person that stood by me throughout this period of employment. That, at least, made me feel that out of many staff, someone cared.
Something has to change in pharmacy when it comes to racism.
I would like all the staff to receive training on how to be anti-racist. I would also want all pharmacies to have a complaint form for temporary staff and locum staff in place in case they suffer abuse or racism.
Every complaint surrounding racism should be dealt with immediately to avoid further damage to staff relationships down the line if possible.
The author of this blog wishes to remain anonymous.
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