In a companion Career Physician article, we offer a range of suggested tips and strategies for managing the process of a successful employment agreement and physician contract negotiation.

Our approach in that article was a broad, strategic overview of employment agreement negotiations.

In this article we focus more specifically on the actual negotiation itself, offering tactical advice on how to get the best deal you can.

Dealpoints Financial

The most critical part of your employment agreement from your perspective will of course be the compensation package. You should write down your requirements well ahead of any negotiating session and decide the absolute “deal breaker” levels for each area of compensation.

Financial elements of the compensation will often include some or all of the following:

  • Lump sum payment for practice start up
  • Income guarantees
  • Gross and net salary
  • Sign-on bonus
  • Incentive to close
  • Educational stipend
  • Repayment of school loans
  • Moving expenses

Dealpoints – Practice

In addition to determining your financial requirements, you should also identify and write down your non-financial work-place and practice requirements. These would include:

  • Start date
  • Company car
  • CME time and expenses
  • Vacation
  • Health insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Malpractice coverage
  • Practice marketing
  • Referral services

Getting to Win-Win

First, always remember – from your initial contact through the entire process with a prospective employer you are negotiating all the time.

The best tactic you can employ is seeking to find a win-win for both parties to the deal. You will be working together ? if a mutually agreed deal is struck ? and if both you and the prospective employer feel like you’ve both “won” it will set the stage for a strong, respectful and prosperous ongoing relationship.

Three tips to achieving a win-win deal are:

  • Never narrow down the negotiation to only one issue. Then someone has to lose.
  • Realize that people don’t want the same thing. We all have a unique perspective.
  • Find out early what the other party really wants, and then help them get it.

Doing the Deal – Top Tips

Here are some tactical tips for getting the deal that’s best for you:

  • Keep it positive. Adversarial negotiations are rarely successfully closed.
  • When the employer wants something, make sure you get something in return.
  • Don’t bluff. The potential for lost credibility could cripple your position for the rest of the negotiation.
  • No matter how good the first offer sounds, don’t accept it too quickly. Both parties need to know they’ve negotiated a great contract in their favor.
  • Don’t act too sharp or sophisticated, as it often will raise the employer’s competitive juices needlessly.
  • Deadlines real and perceived can make both parties focus on getting a deal done. Make sure you both know why the deadline is firm and recognize what’s at stake if the deadline passes without a deal.
  • Be prepared to walk away if the negotiations are going badly for you. This is very difficult but is a sure test of your negotiation staying power and could drive your ultimate success in getting the best deal.
  • Don’t be afraid to remain silent at certain points in a face-to-face negotiation. You can’t give anything away if you’re not talking and how much you give away is often directly related to how much you talk. At a critical moment, you might suggest that both parties “think about this point quietly for a few moments.” The other side might be tempted to fill the silence and, at a minimum, you might gain some helpful insight into what their issues are and use this to inform your next move.
  • You will never get everything you want in any negotiation so be sure to include deal points that you are prepared to lose – in exchange for getting the ones you’ve identified as your deal-breakers.
  • When you are closing an agreed deal, write down your final offer. There is always a compelling and persuasive power in the written word.
  • If the other party begins to wrangle too much, try backing off on a point already conceded. This sometimes breaks their cycle of escalating demands and can bring them back to a reality that will allow you both to re-start in a less strident atmosphere.
  • Help the other party save face if they stumble or are set back by having to retreat from a commitment they’ve already made. Find a way to allow them to be flexible without looking foolish.

About the Author:

Wesley D. Millican, MBA, CEO and Physician Talent Officer of CareerPhysician Advisors, LP, and CareerPhysician, LLC, provides comprehensive talent solutions for academic children’s hospitals, colleges of medicine and academic medical centers across the nation. He possesses a longstanding passion for career development of all young physicians and serves as a go to career resource for training program directors and their residents and fellows. In continuing his commitment to the “future of medicine”, Mr. Millican speaks nationally at residency and fellowship programs. His Launch Your Career® Series is a proven resource for today’s residents and fellows and has served as a go to resource for program directors over the last 15 years.