Why are people leaving pharma?

iquitPOST SUMMARY: It was suggested, in a recent survey, that the primary reason people are leaving the industry is because of compensation, but my informal survey among those currently inside the industry and those that have left indicates a wider, more serious problem.

If you work within the pharma industry, in marketing, there is a great chance that you’re getting very well compensated via annual salaries, but that bonuses have mostly either shrunk or have gone away.  In today’s workplace that is not enough of a reason to drive people away so I wanted to find out from business acquaintances why they left biopharma.  Here are the top reasons…

(1) Incompetent managers – by far this was the biggest gripe ranging from Directors who are “too comfortable in their positions” to pharma “retreads”.   Two former executives from a West Coast biotech company mentioned how, after their CEO retired, more and more people were hired from J&J and tried to turn the company into J&J West coast.  Others said that too many managers were afraid to make changes they knew needed to happen because they were not willing to risk their political and social status in the organization.


(2) Too many meetings/takes too long to get things done – “It took me 8 months of meetings to convince people that our websites needed to integrate responsive design” was a direct quote from an ex eMarketing person.  Another said “my day basically consists of going from one meeting to another while picking up more projects which I never have time to do”.

(3) Open Office Environment – The growing open office trend seems reasonable enough. The thinking goes that employees will be happier and more productive if they work together instead of being separated by thick office walls. Except they aren’t. In a new report, researchers from the University of Sydney examine the “privacy-communication trade-off in open-plan offices” and find that the benefits of easy communication that supposedly go along with open-plan offices don’t outweigh the disadvantages, such as a major lack of privacy. One Cambridge biotech company went as far as to remove phones from employee workstations and create “huddle rooms” ?  You can’t force employees to work together by removing walls, give them a better work environment that includes a private space.


(4) Over compensated CEO’s – Surprisingly, several people I spoke to said that they were tired of company CEO’s making tens of millions of dollars while laying off employees. This coming at a time when brand team members are usually told to “find other jobs” when their products come off patent.

Put this all together and it’s easy to understand why so many good and talented people are leaving pharma and biotech companies.  I have been consulting for 4 years now and often listen to clients “vent” about their organizations.  The real question is will the industry change before it’s too late?



2 thoughts on “Why are people leaving pharma?

  1. I agree with all the above, but the nasty seed that started all this down stream poor behaviour is that 15 years ago pharma started putting the shareholder first … above the passion for seeking out and bringing to market BETTER medicines. Ever since, the effects of this shift have manifest.

    I left Pharma because the company was undertaking a clinical trial that was designed to keep the drug in development, not to see if it was better than the drugs out on the market. Keeping a drug in development helps the company to boast about numbers in the pipeline… Going to work day after day with this being the goal… and wasting all that money with no thought for the poor enrolled patients led to me and many others to quit.

    Your list is a symptom of the poison. The poison is greed and short term gains.

  2. I left because of meetings, meetings and more meetings. Lack of advancement, bad managers, no job stability and outsourcing were other factors.

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