Anecdotally Speaking

The superfluous, a very necessary thing. --voltaire

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Niceness Is Imperative

The relationship between physicians and pharmaceutical representatives is unique. I have worked in an office practice of one type or another for over 21 years in three states and during that time, I have always been called on by representatives of the major pharmaceutical manufacturing companies. I have come to admire and appreciate the general quality and caliber of the type of person that enters this profession. And I acknowledge that the job they have is more difficult than they are allowed to admit and than most people are aware of.

The unique relationship between physicians and pharmaceutical representatives sets us both up I think to exploit the human parts of us that tend to be less noble. Where this kind of thing plays out in obvious ways hardly needs mentioning since it has been discussed extensively. But the more subtle and less obvious influences are more pervasive and exert their effects day in and day out and the brunt of the burden is born by the reps and this is why I think their job is so hard. Let me explain.

The reps are trying to sell their product. They come to the physician as the customer of their product, the one who "buys" the product, the one who must be sold on the product. The physician sees the rep coming to him or her as someone who wants something from them, something of value, something of value that only they can give. They are instinctively defensive, skeptical, expecting to be sold on the product. The physician initially feels no obligation to give anything to the rep. The rep tries to create a desire in the physician to give something, ultimately to "buy" the product.

A crude overview granted, but the way I have seen this play out unfortunately many times is that reps have to be nice to doctors even if they get mistreated because they still have to sell their product to them. And doctors can mistreat reps and the reps will still be gracious and treat them with kindness. Sometimes it can be as small as making them wait more than an hour to talk with them for less than 15 seconds without even looking them in the eye. Or making them wait and then leaving the office forgetting that they are there and not seeing them at all. Or the offenses can be horribly cruel and vicious I am ashamed for my profession to say.

And in defense of the reps, the graciousness and consideration that many of them so munificently give is frequently not insincere, but genuine. A testament to the rich character many of these reps possess, which makes sense. It takes someone with character to accomplish difficult jobs and they have a difficult job.

I am always challenged. When someone treats me nice regardless of how I will treat him or her back, there is no accountability on my part. How I treat them depends solely on my own character. If I return their kindness with unkindness, what does that say about me? However, you could say that I am being manipulated, and that is true. But is trading unkindness for kindness the way to deal with manipulation? I think not.

Kudos reps. You are among the most bright, persistent, kind, interesting, compassionate, talented and tough people I know. And I say that not just because you like me. Because I don't really know if you like me, because even if you did not like me, how would I know?

You are always welcome in my office. And not just because you like me. But it doesn't hurt.

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