If you work in the pharmaceutical world as a Salesperson, District Manager, Regional Director, Area Business Director or marketing professional, about twice a year you attend POA Meetings. For those of you that are unfamiliar with what a POA Meeting is, it is basically a meeting where corporate initiatives are discussed and how the organization would like to promote their products moving forward. I have written about them before and touched on how some love them and some hate them. Coming out of each POA Meeting there is always some horror story that all of the reps are whispering about. Some guy went out drinking all night and got arrested. Another guy got hammered and was accused of some type of sexual misconduct. Some married woman drank too much and cheated on her husband and now the entire company knows. Someone drank too much and was so dehydrated at the morning general session that they fainted. If I think hard enough I truly cannot think of a POA Meeting that I attended where there wasn’t a story like the ones I just mentioned or at least similar. Someone is always getting fired at these meetings because of alcohol misuse. It begs the question; Should alcohol be served at POA Meetings?
We should premise this article by saying that in the defense of pharmaceutical companies, they usually serve beer and wine only at POA Meetings. I have never been to a POA Meeting in my 11-12 year career and was served liquor at the meeting. Perhaps I went out to a restaurant with the management team and had a cocktail or two, but never at the actual meeting did the pharmaceutical company give me or others liquor. There are plenty of reps, managers or other pharma professionals that have drinks at the bar in the hotel lobby of their own volition, and the large majority of them drink responsibly. But there is always that irresponsible person who just doesn’t know their limit or changes into a completely different person once alcohol enters their system. You know, the rep who decides to have the hour long conversation with the Regional Director yet he cannot speak without slurring his words and thinks he is having a respectful intellectual conversation that the RD is enjoying. When the reality is the RD just lost all respect for rep and will be having that difficult conversation with the reps manager first thing Monday.
Regardless of who is responsible and who is not or whether it is beer, wine, or liquor being served, should pharmaceutical companies serve alcohol at all? We all know that alcohol is a social lubricant. It lowers inhibition, gives people loose lips, makes some lose their ability to recognize that others are looking at them as the “drunk guy/girl”. All of these behaviors fly directly in the face of what pharmaceutical companies teach their representatives. When you are in the pharmaceutical world there is a strong emphasis on social awareness, self-regulation, empathy and other such emotional awareness indicators. If you are a rep you are told in no uncertain terms to watch what you say and when you say it…”you never know who is listening”. If you are a District Manager you always have a conference call previous to the meeting letting your team know to be on their best behavior. So if this is what they are preaching then what is actually the purpose behind putting the employees in a situation where they have the potential to take a substance that assists them in acting in a way that is the direct opposite of what is being preached and taught from a self-awareness perspective?
From the perspective of the pharmaceutical company, they I am sure, believe that if you are an adult and over the age of 21 years old, then you have every right to drink. If someone truly wants to drink they will find a way. Perhaps the pharma company would rather the reps drink at the hotel as opposed to going out somewhere else where a watchful eye cannot be kept on them. For the record I am not one of those goody goody types who is against alcohol. I drank my fair share at these meetings until I realized in my mid-thirties that it simply hurt too much the next day. Pushing 40 now….I don’t even go there as it simply hurts too much!! If you are presenting in front of the room hung over…this is not a good look for you. Some can drink all night and operate the next day as if nothing happened and then you have me who literally feels like someone punched me in the head repeatedly the next day, each time I drink. I am miserable the next day and have learned to just not do it if I want to function normally.
Some might say that it is up to the individual to be responsible and professional even if they have drinks….and I agree. However, the very nature of drinking will take anyone’s professionalism and self-awareness and bring it down a notch!
Whatever the case, we want to know your opinion: