How pharmacists can resign in the best way possible

Resigning can be an awkward experience but it does not mean you have to sever all ties with your current employer. Steve Hemsley finds out the best way to handle your resignation.

Close up of person signing a resignation letter

Almost everyone working in pharmacy today (or any job for that matter) will have resigned at some point. Or, if you are new to the profession, you have probably considered your next career move and how and when you might quit your current job.

Those who resign do not necessarily particularly dislike where they are working or have a difficult manager. Often, individuals will consider resignation simply because they need a new challenge or their personal circumstances have changed.

Yet resigning is a workplace skill in its own right and one which few people are taught how to do well. Those who quit in the right manner part on good terms with their former employers, meaning that they do not burn any bridges or leave old colleagues struggling to cope.

Sandra Pearce, head of talent at Celesio UK, which owns Lloydspharmacy and AAH Pharmaceuticals, has clear advice for pharmacists who want to quit. “Remain professional, work your full notice period and maintain confidentiality after you have left,” she says. “In particular, it is important to maintain relationships because you never know when you will meet people again in your career. The pharmacy world is extremely small.”

When someone has decided to resign, their manager should be the first person to know. Those resigning should do so as soon as possible once they have a new job to go to.

Do everything in your power to make the transition and your absence easier for those you leave behind. Make them miss you

Resignation letters

A letter of resignation should be brief and non-emotional. It is the last impression that an ex-employer has of a previous employee so professionalism is vital, however unhappy or angry an individual might feel when he or she writes it.

The resignation letter should explain why the writer is leaving (perhaps to develop their career) and when their last day will be. It is polite to include a note mentioning that employment at the company has been enjoyable but that it is time to move on. Of course, if there has been a serious breakdown in the working relationship between the employee and the manager then a more formal approach may be appropriate. There are examples of resignation letter templates available online (e.g. The letter should usually be hand delivered during a prearranged meeting with a manager, rather than sent by email.

Jason Poquette is a pharmacist in the United States who writes pharmacy careers blog ‘The Honest Apothecary’. He says a professional resignation letter is all part of ensuring that an individual finishes their time with an employer in a positive way.

“Do everything in your power to make the transition and your absence easier for those you leave behind. Make them miss you. Go above and beyond the call of duty a bit more than usual,” he says. “The last couple weeks of your work will feel weird. You are there but, in some ways, you are not there. You will sometimes feel like you are just going through the motions, but finish strong.” While an employee are working their notice period, which could be between two weeks and three months, they are still entitled to normal pay, sick leave and holiday allowance.

Gary Dobinson was an area manager for UK pharmacy multiple Boots in the north east of England but resigned to take over as the pharmacy owner of independent Mills Pharmacy in South Gosforth, Newcastle, about a mile from his previous employer and now competitor.

“I told management about my plans and that this was an opportunity that had come at the right time for me. They respected my openness and honesty,” he says. “Boots kept me on as an area manager rather than get rid of me as soon as I resigned and I worked to a structured notice period of 12 weeks.”

Exit interview

During a formal resignation process there will usually be an exit interview. This will be with a line manager, the pharmacy owner or someone from the human resources department, if there is one. These can be odd meetings which, although designed to find out why someone is leaving or to transfer knowledge, are often awkward for the departing employee. He or she may feel unable to be as honest as they would like to be or they may be too direct, which could damage their career in the future if they upset people they may work with again or gain a reputation for being “difficult”.

If an exit interview is performed well it is an opportunity for the employee to provide some constructive feedback on how the company is run and to leave on good terms. For the employer, it is a chance to find out which parts of the operation are failing and any problems that could prompt others to quit if they are not resolved.

Community Pharmacies (UK) is a national operator of health centre-based pharmacies working in collaboration with GP practices. Its operations director, Kevin Joshua, says exit interviews can help the employer understand someone’s reasons for leaving, but his company takes a different approach.

“We provide pharmacists who resign with a questionnaire and a prepaid envelope rather than a formal interview,” he says. “We want the feedback to be warts and all. We ask people about the company and how we rate as an employer and get their views on our structure and management style. We do listen. It can make us aware of problems and acts as a type of whistleblowing.”

It is important patients feel they will receive continuity in care and receive reassurance from those departing

However, Joshua admits the company only gets back about 10% of the forms it sends out. “Psychologically, people have moved on and they want to draw a line under their previous employment, but the questionnaires we do receive back provide strong views, both positive and negative,” he notes.

Joshua has worked for large pharmacy chains and has more than 15 years’ experience in community pharmacy and pharmacy management. He knows from his own experience that the way you resign is important. “We’ve all been in the situation when we’re thinking about moving on but we can shy away from having that early conversation. I’ve always found that being open with your line manager works best,” he says.

“Employers are happy to discuss things with good people, especially if they understand they cannot offer you the career progression you want. A company can also assist people who want to do something different.”

Joshua cites the example of one pharmacy manager who was leaving to set up a different business outside pharmacy but did not want to leave immediately. “We put him into a support pharmacy role while we developed another pharmacist working alongside him. This was good for him, the business, staff and patients.”

It is also imperative to reassure patients when a regular pharmacist is moving on. “It is important patients feel they will receive continuity in care and receive reassurance from those departing that they will still get a good standard of service and care,” he says. “In reality, pharmacy support staff often remain longer at a particular pharmacy and pharmacists are more likely to move about – so the relationship between patients and support staff is crucial.”

Handing over

In hospital pharmacy, the high turnover of staff can be an issue, which is why those resigning should consider the short-term needs as well as the long-term needs of their department.

Robert Duncombe is director of pharmacy at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester and former chief pharmacist at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow. He says anyone in his team who wants to resign or has a job interview to attend should be honest.

If people are going to a better job that is a good reflection on the training they have received from you

“You have a duty to your existing and new employers when you resign to ensure things run smoothly,” he says. “The longer I have worked as a chief pharmacist the more accepting I have become of staff turnover. For people who are new to management it can come as a bit of a shock.”

Duncombe says hospital pharmacies can struggle when there is a wave of resignations in a short period. “If you are recruiting people who are at the same stage of their career they might all leave within a few months of each other,” he says. “You have to accept natural progression, and if people are going to a better job that is a good reflection on the training they have received from you.”

When an individual resigns, it is often the case that current employers will make a counter offer in an attempt to retain their services. This can be flattering but more money is usually only a short-term fix, especially if the reasons behind the choice to leave are not financial. It can be a temporary solution for an employer while the recruitment process drags on, but both the employer and employee are usually aware it is time to move on. Also, many employers will not make a counter offer because they fear they will set a precedent that could drive up the wage bill.

Resigning is never easy and can lead to emotions running high. Whatever has happened during your period of employment, remain professional – you never know who you might be working with or for in the future.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, August 2016, Vol 297, No 7892;297(7892):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201515

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