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The Truth About Opinions at Work

5 minute read

Anyone who has worked in a Pharmacy at some stage would have felt the segregation that can occur between the Dispensary staff and the Front Shop staff, the Pharmacist and the Dispense Tech, the Collective Store and the Operations Team (Head Office) or the Owner and the Manager to give only a few examples. The fancy word they call these segregated components in larger organisations are ‘silos’. No one effectively communicates and everyone fights for resources or time which we all lack!

Everyone feels from where they stand that their job or opinion is the most important. The truth is…they are right. As a manager, if it’s important to one person in your staff, it should be important to you. If you disagree with the theory, I encourage you to think deeper to a time when you haven’t taken the time to appreciate the opinion or feedback from a staff member who has come to you for support. Was there a flow-on effect that resulted in anything less than a good outcome for everyone involved? Alternatively, think of a time when someone above you hasn’t taken on board your opinion or has been dismissive. How did you feel and what flow-on effect did it have on your work?

As a manager if it’s important to one person in your staff, it should be important to you.

If you have ever read the book called ‘Fierce Conversations’ by Susan Scott you will be aware of her concept of the ‘Beach Ball Reality’. If not, please let me explain briefly. Think of the business you work in like a beach ball. There’s a blue stripe, a pink stripe, an orange stripe and a white stripe. Everyone in the business stands on a different stripe. Let’s say the Pharmacists stand on the blue stripe, the Dispensary Assistants stand on the pink stripe, the Pharmacy Assistants stand on the orange stripe and the Operations Support (or Head Office) stand on the white stripe. This is a simplified version of a business structure but for ease of reference let’s run with it.

Now, picture where you would stand on the beach ball. If someone asks you, “what does your day in the Pharmacy involve?”. What would you answer? For example, I’m a Pharmacist so I would stand on the blue stripe. I could reply, “dispensing and checking prescriptions, counselling patients, tending to dose administration aid adjustments, completing MedsChecks and providing clinical advice to patients and staff.”. If I were a Pharmacy Assistant and I was asked the same question, I may reply “serving customers, putting away stock, completing stock control duties, merchandising and general cleaning”. If I worked at Head Office my answer could be completely different, “sending emails to stores, organising the catalogue, buying stock for the group, ensuring all IT related issues are dealt with and overseeing targets”. I’m sure you get the drift that depending on where you stand on the beach ball you clearly would have different views about what is important on a daily basis.

So what does this mean for the segregation we have all felt at some stage?

When we get bogged down and only see the view from where we stand on the beach ball it is easy to dismiss or not respect the view of someone standing on a different colour. From where we stand we formulate our own reality, that of which may be very different to the person standing on another stripe of the beach ball. This doesn’t mean yours is right and theirs is wrong or vice versa. What it means is that each stripe of the beach ball needs its own opportunity to bring their thoughts, concerns and visions to the table to allow everyone’s reality to overlap a little more, blur the borders of the stripes and find the common ground of appreciation for another’s role.

As a manager, it is your job to allow every person on every stripe a seat at the table, a voice in a meeting and an opportunity to be heard and listened to. If you can encourage people to communicate what they see from their stripe and get them to trust that their opinion is going to be valued and contribute to the big picture, mutual respect grows. Once these conversations begin, this is when the segregation or the silos begin to break down.

In allowing everyone the opportunity for input there are inevitably some personalities that will be bigger than others. Some people by nature are the ‘squeaky wheel’, appreciate the squeak! It gives you the opportunity to see their stripe on the beach ball, and a view into another’s reality. Others by nature are ‘yes people’ who will just agree with the path of least resistance. Help these people find the courage to use their voice and give them the opportunity to engage and give their opinion. These are the ones at most risk of not being heard yet hold vital clues to why things may not be working as well as they could be or why the segregation is happening within your store.

So next time you see segregation happening within your Pharmacy or something isn’t playing out the way you had hoped, think of the beach ball. Ask everyone regardless of where they stand on the beach ball to show you their reality in relation to the problem. Encourage others to appreciate someone else’s viewpoint then collectively decide on an appropriate way forward with everyone’s realities now considered. The insights and progress you will gain from taking the time to explore these realities will benefit everyone, not in the least…you.

Give people the courage to find their voice. Then allow them to show you their reality…

Want to know more about Beach Ball Reality Conversations in Pharmacy, comment below or contact me and

ask for your free Beach Ball Conversation Staff Meeting Worksheet.

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