With the recent hurricane (Matthew) to hit the east coast I thought it apropos to discuss Weather and Pharmaceutical Sales. More specifically the role that it plays when all of the pharma reps are out there pounding the pavement. Aside from hurricanes, having been a Rep and Manager in the Northeast for over a decade, it was not uncommon to have the yearly snow storm or two that hindered my ability to work. Weather plays a large factor in what pharmaceutical reps do and how they function daily. So I figured…let’s explore the issue of weather and pharmaceutical sales.
Each year, having worked in the New York City area, there was the eventual snow storm. As a representative I always did everything I could to get out and make calls. Many would stay home and I understood their reasoning for staying home but figured that I would have more time with doctors and my manager would certainly look upon me favorably for being a trooper. When there was that large snow storm without question my manager (and all managers) would say:
Please use your best judgement in deciding to go out there today
….or something along these lines. Never once in my career did I hear a manager say that it was not a good idea to go out there because of the weather…..or….”its just not safe to go out there today”! I always thought in my head that this was potentially a liability for a company to say “use your best judgement” to the rep, in that they could possibly be sued by a rep who perhaps got hurt or was in an accident that hurt someone else. I am sure it has happened. So are pharma companies wrong for sending reps out when there is a snow storm or some type of difficult weather like Hurricane Matthew or a Nor’easter?
If one takes apart the above quote, it is clear that this is a contrived or canned response to reps questioning whether or not they should work that day. If we look closely what they are actually saying is, “you make the choice for yourself”, which pretty much takes them out of the legal equation. As a manager I was instructed to say the same thing because it neither states to stay home or to go out and work in dangerous weather. If the company is sued as a result of an injury they can simply say that they gave the representative the choice and the rep made the choice to work…therefore (the company) relinquishes any responsibility for an injury if one occurs.
It seems insensitive at first, but when you are a major corporation is it smart to operate this way? The very purpose of being a corporation is to increase shareholder wealth and how does a pharmaceutical company do so? With reps out there selling. Additionally, legally speaking, if pharma companies can mitigate law suits by giving reps a contrived response to weather and pharmaceutical sales then why wouldn’t they, especially if it protects their bottom line.
Many of the reps that worked for me when I was a manager or that I partnered with when working at rep or specialty rep levels would all belly ache about being told to use their best judgement. They clearly wanted to hear the words, “stay home…its just not safe”. I get this perspective too!! With staying homes comes a stigma that you are just not a hard worker. This is altogether ridiculous. To put yourself in a dangerous situation just to look like a “tough worker” is silly. It is smarter to live to rep another day!
My take on it is as follows. There is a difference between a snow storm and a nor’easter!! There is a difference between a category 3, 4, or 5 hurricane or a serious rain storm. If your area is scheduled for a 15 inch snow storm and you can make a few calls before it gets bad out there than why not…go for it. The major issue is those that use weather and pharmaceutical sales as an excuse to not work…those that are just looking for a reason to stay home. As a manager it was easy for me to uncover this because it was common for these types of reps to consistently make excuses even when not talking about bad weather. Those that are prone to excuses, make them in many situations…weather is simply just another excuse for them.
The reps that worked for me that were consistently hard workers who decided to stay home because of weather, I secretly applauded them because I knew they genuinely felt like it was dangerous and a bad idea to be out there.