Sign In
Firing in the Pharmacy: 6 Tips to Soften the Blow

Firing in the Pharmacy: 5 Tips to Soften the Blow by Elements magazine |

February 11, 2021

Employees probably seem like family at your independent community pharmacy. Your tight-knit team may consist of long-term employees, recent pharmacy graduates, or even members of your own family. And working with a smaller team means your coworkers often become close friends.

However, having a close-knit group of employees makes the decision to fire someone that much more difficult.

If you’ve noticed a slack in work ethic, found that someone no longer fits with the long-term goals of your pharmacy, or you’re no longer able to afford another full-time employee, you may decide it’s the right time to let someone go — no matter how much you value them on a personal level.

Follow these tips to make the dismissal process less difficult for you and your employee.

1. Make sure this is the right solution

Before you terminate an employee, make sure that this is really the only solution.

Never use layoffs as a quick way to save money. “For short-term profitability problems, downsizing is a bad solution,” said Sandra J. Sucher, professor of management practice, Joseph L. Rice III Faculty Fellow at Harvard Business School. The economic consequences of downsizing are often longer-lasting than whatever short-term issue a business is having, even if the financial outlook for the larger economy appears dim.

“Ask yourself, ‘If I knew that the situation was going to be way better in 18 months, would I do what I’m going to do right now?’” Sucher said.

If you’re firing based on performance, make sure you’ve taken all the steps necessary to improve that performance. By the time you get to the firing stage, your employee should have had warnings about where they are falling short and what they need to do to improve.

On the other hand, if your employee is on the chopping block because they are hostile in the workplace, you shouldn’t hesitate to terminate. Giving hostile people a second chance only shows your other employees that their comfort on the job doesn’t matter.

2. Begin with a strategy

When you decide to let a staff member go, it’s critical to plan and practice what you will say before you sit the employee down.

It’s likely you’ll be nervous, but rehearsing what you’ll say beforehand will help ease your anxieties. In addition to creating a script, you’ll want to choose the right time and location to give your employee the bad news.

Although receiving the news of getting fired may be tough, taking the time to plan a respectful exit for your employee will be appreciated. Consider doing it at close-of-business so the employee doesn’t have to collect their things and leave with all of their co-workers watching.

3. Give the employee privacy

When it comes time to actually deliver the bad news, do it in a way that prioritizes the employee’s privacy.

Conduct the firing behind closed doors, so they don’t have to be humiliated in front of their peers. When you fire someone in public, it can also dampen the morale of the employees who aren’t being fired.

Aside from you and the employee, the only other person who should be present during the termination is a witness — the person who handles your human resources, a trusted manager, or potentially the pharmacy’s lawyer.

Having a witness present is important in case the employee brings a lawsuit against the company — they will be able to confirm that nothing illegal or unethical happened.

Editor’s picks

How to Maximize Wholesaler Rebates and Profitability on Pharmacy Inventory by Elements magazine |

The Best (and Only) Way to Maximize Wholesaler Rebates 


Offset Pharmacy DIR Fees and PBM Reimbursements With These Alternative Revenue Ideas

10 Revenue Ideas That Don’t Involve DIR Fees and PBM Reimbursements


Is Owning a Pharmacy Profitable? by Elements magazine |

Is Owning a Pharmacy Profitable?



4. Rip the band-aid off

When you have to fire someone, you’ll probably be nervous, but don’t delay the inevitable by indulging in small talk.

As soon as your meeting starts say something along the lines of, “I have some bad news for you,” and then tell the employee they are being terminated right away. The more you delay, the more you risk the meeting turning into a conversation, and you may give the employee the idea that the decision is up for debate.

Harvard Business Review recommends you deliver the bad news in the past tense, for example, “You have been fired,” instead of, “You will be fired,” which leaves more room for ambiguity.

5. Show empathy, but acknowledge what went wrong

Many of your pharmacy’s employees may be long-time associates, and firing a well-liked individual is no easy feat.

Explain to the employee what went wrong and the reasons why they are being fired. Talk about what steps you have taken together to improve their performance, and how the employee failed to meet those expectations.

After you’ve made the reasons for the termination clear, show empathy. Share some of employee’s positive qualities and tell them that you wish only the best for them in the future.

Letting the employee speak their mind will also be appreciated. Stand your ground, but show compassion by letting them ask questions and share their own thoughts.

6. Be open about the future

If the reason you are terminating an employee isn’t because of a problem with their work but because of financial hardship, be clear about it.

Let these employees know if you’d be open to hiring them back when your financial situation turns around. You never know if another employee will choose to leave your business, or when you’ll need more help in the future.

For employees who struggled with a certain part of their job but were otherwise a joy to work with, you can even let them know if you’d be open to rehiring them when they’ve got a few more years of experience under their belt.


An Independently Owned Organization Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The member-owned company serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited (formerly VAWD) warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.

Want more pharmacy business tips and advice? Sign up for our e-newsletter.



Sign up for a FREE subscription to Elements magazine!



Sign up to receive the weekly Elements e-newsletter for bonus business tips and advice.

find out more