MSL Retention: Is Grass Greener on Other Side?

Image by Andreas KrappweisLet’s talk about grass. Specifically, how the grass seems greener on the other side.

Those of you who are veteran MSLs, you know how it goes…

First, there is a seed of dissatisfaction.

That seed grows into a weed of discontent, which over time becomes poisoned with gossip and the next thing you know, the garden is choking from deteriorating morale. This is when MSLs leave in droves for greener pastures.

I was speaking with a former colleague and a seasoned MSL, who said that the years of being a MSL has made her realize that the most critical factor she considers in staying or leaving a position to matter is…. her relationship with her MSL coworkers.

When she likes the people she is working with, it makes everything else on the job easier to stomach. This person has learned, as I have learned over my years working with different MSL teams at different companies, about the fallacy of greener pastures in MSL programs at companies.

The life science industry may be large, but the MSL niche is still a small niche even with continual expansion of MSL teams. New leadership within the MSL space will emerge over time, but management cultures change as slowly as trees grow. This means there are inbreeding ideas and ideals. This also means MSLs may not be getting something new by leaving their current companies to join new companies promising them the moon.

So for the new year, as I reflect on how I used to be a chaser — chasing after goals, recognition, next rungs of a success ladder — and how far I have come to appreciate what I already have — I want to ask you to consider something for the new year:

Pretend for a moment that you cannot run away from all the seeds of dissatisfaction that has sunk your morale about your current MSL job.

Maybe it’s the annoying sales people who can’t seem to get that you’re not at their beck-and-call.

Maybe it’s the management that can’t seem to get what MSLs do and why they can’t settle on objective metrics.

Maybe you’re getting restless with the routine of the job.

Maybe you’re feeling frustrated with the lack of support for your growth and development.

Pretend that if you were to go to a new company, the very things you’re running away from will follow you there.

You’d get the same annoying reps, ignorant management, job angst, lack of training funds. Sure, they’ll show up wearing different faces and names and clothes, but they will show up all the same.

Now what will you do?

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t check out greener pastures, if you are presented with a golden ticket to work at your dream company.

I’m saying that sometimes we’re fooled into thinking that we’ve left for greener pastures when we’re still circling the same patches of lawn.

I’m saying that you have more power than you realize to totally change your own morale at any given job.

Jane Chin, Ph.D.