Signs that low EI is sinking your pharma ship.

Picture this…

It’s Wednesday afternoon you have a patient who presents for a flu vaccine, a DAA needs to be checked and you have someone who has come in with severe allergies and your high-flying early adopter of a Pharmacy Assistant is spruiking your newest service, your allergy clinic. Of course, there are still scripts to check and patients to serve. Your staff for the day are three pharmacy assistants, one dispense tech and two pharmacists including yourself.

How does this play out in a team with low emotional intelligence?

Superstar Sally is beautifully promoting your allergy clinic suggesting a consult straight away, while chatty Cathy has a yarn to a long-term loyal customer.  Your last Pharmacy Assistant, irritated Irene is huffing and puffing that no one is helping her hand out scripts. She slams baskets louder and does an exasperated sigh *hoping* someone will come to her aid. No one is noticing except the patients, they’re feeling awkward.

In the dispensary, the dispense tech Dave continues to dispense scripts for next week’s DAAs, Pharmacist Pat continues to only dispense scripts because helping guide the rest of the team is ‘not their job’ and you, well you’re trying to organise the paperwork for the flu vaccine, check the DAA and telepathically send a message to superstar Sally that while promoting the allergy clinic is awesome, an immediate consultation is not going to happen right now. Beyond that, you can feel the tension build in your jaw and know you will be dealing with spotfires soon enough.

Irritated Irene will blow, Cathy will get flustered because she is ‘just being kind’, Sally will get upset that her patient couldn’t be prioritised and pharmacist Pat will probably roll her eyes, again, ‘not their problem.’


The cost of low emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, perceive, reason with and influence emotions in ourselves and others. When staff are low in these skills, it impacts the team’s function.

In this scenario, the lack of emotional intelligence within the team is evident. Their awareness of the pharmacy and what others need to be supported is low. Communication is happening but in ways and directions that decrease service delivery outcomes, not improve them. The ability to emotionally reason and triage effectively isn’t occurring because the team isn’t collaborating. Worst of all, every one of the staff is acting with low self-awareness. They are oblivious to how their actions are impacting others. I bet they have never even stopped to ask or give meaningful feedback about how those situations could be improved.

The end result is the erosion of trust within the team, an elongation of time it takes to engage with a patient and a decrease in quality. It also creates an insidious rift that will occur between team members.

The things left unsaid are like water leaking into a boat, they may not sink you straight away, but they will…slowly…

What’s the solution?

If we give each of the staff members the tools to improve their emotional intelligence we could mitigate every challenge in this situation…

The circumstances won’t change but how the team responds will. This is because emotional intelligence isn’t just about understanding emotions; it’s about using that understanding to foster positive interactions, facilitate collaborations and drive performance.

First, we give them the tools for perspective and the ability to increase their awareness of others. This goes beyond reading someone’s facial cues (though extremely helpful), it’s about reading situations and using all the resources we have at our disposal. Technology, workflow, triage practices, effective questioning and reading non-verbal cues all come into play. This alone would improve chatty Cathy’s ability to read that irritated Irene needs assistance and flu vaccine paperwork can be handed to the patient waiting. It would also stop superstar Sally from offering the allergy consultation for ‘right now’ but offer to come back in 30 minutes, offer a follow-up phone call from the pharmacist or, see what other options the pharmacist may prefer. With more awareness, dispense tech Dave would see the scripts piling up and jump in to improve the dispensary workflow on urgent prescriptions.

This solves some of the problems, but there is more emotional intelligence can solve. Next, let’s look at Pharmacist Pat and ‘it’s not my problem’. This is an engagement issue. Giving Pat the tools to positively influence others, including tools to delegate, deal with negative behaviour and help Pat understand their role within the team and the bigger picture, will help improve behaviour. ‘It’s not my problem’ will begin to shift to, ‘I have some ownership and I can improve my own job satisfaction.

A tool for everyone is self-reflection. Self-reflection allows people to expand their self-awareness. Going hand-in-hand with self-awareness is providing tools to give and receive feedback. Encouraging a feedback culture helps identify what has gone well and not so well in this situation, improving the situation for next time.

Last but not least, the tools of authenticity and self-management. Irritated Irene has a right to be irritated, but huffing and puffing will not solve anything. By giving Irene tools to communicate her feelings and thoughts to the right person, in the right way and at the right time, she will get a better outcome. Managing her emotions more effectively will improve outcomes for herself and her patients, this improves everyone’s experience. If the experience improves, trust improves.

As for you, the pharmacist, being able to communicate what you need and want, dealing with negative behaviour, providing feedback and improving awareness of what others need to improve themselves and the scenario, all come back to emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence isn’t just ‘nice to have’

As you can see, while emotional intelligence might seem like some ambiguous, fluffy skill that would be ‘nice to have’, without it teams don’t function well. Coming back to the analogy ‘ships don’t sink because of the water around them, they sink from the water in them’, emotional intelligence is the glue that holds your ship together.

If emotional intelligence is high and your team is strong, you can weather any scenario, chaos or smooth sailing. We can’t control the weather, but we can control how we sail through it.

Expanding Emotional Intelligence

At TURN Pharmacy Leadership, we recognise the transformative power of emotional intelligence in pharmacy practice. That’s why we’re proud to present the Expanding Team Capacity webinar series—a comprehensive training program designed to equip pharmacy teams with the emotional intelligence skills needed to thrive in today’s pharmacy environment.

Through interactive workshops and practical tools, participants will learn how to enhance self-awareness, build effective communication strategies, and cultivate a culture of collaboration and accountability within their teams. From managing stress to navigating interpersonal conflicts, the Expanding Team Capacity series equips pharmacy professionals with the skills and mindset needed to excel in any situation.

Don’t let chaos sink your ship. Elevate your team’s performance with emotional intelligence and navigate any challenge with confidence. Join us for the Expanding Team Capacity webinar series and unlock the full potential of your pharmacy team today.

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