Physician Contract Negotiation: DOs and DONTs

DOs

Have clear objectives during physician contract negotiation.

If you do not have clear objectives when discussing your agreement with your employer, you could be signing an agreement that will cause uncertainty and unhappiness in the future. You should understand your own objectives and express them to your potential employer during negotiation to achieve an agreeable compromise.

Give immediate, continuous feedback to the employer.


You should advise a potential employer which terms of the agreement you agree with, and which terms are not currently agreeable. Terms that are not currently agreeable to you should be based on reasonable justification that can be clearly expressed to the potential employer.

Examine the agreement carefully and be prepared.

Have your goals, objectives, facts and options ready for presentation and consideration at the time that the physician’s employment agreement will be negotiated. If there has not been sufficient time to prepare, admit it and arrange for additional time to review the employment agreement. Never sign an employment agreement without having a full and complete understanding of its terms and provisions.

Maintain a clear, distinct and factual theme throughout the negotiation.

This all begins with a clear understanding of your objectives before becoming employed with the potential employer. Clearly defined intentions and goals of employment, along with a reasonable basis and justification for these goals and intentions, give you a better chance to amend standard form provisions to satisfy your own special needs and special circumstances.

Assume you and the group have opposite goals.

In any negotiation, each person wants different things. In your case, the group wants to get the services you provide as inexpensively as possible. You want to get as much income as possible. Both you and the group should push to get what they want, but the only way for both to be satisfied with the outcome is for both sides to be willing and able to compromise. If it’s done well, both sides feel like winners, and the physician contract is positive for everyone. That’s the ideal way to begin a new job.

Learn the art of compromise.

When you have opposing goals, it will always require compromise to reach the best solution for both parties. With this in mind, you should begin by figuring out the three most important things you need in a job. Don’t bring these up right away, but work hard to obtain all three. Then look at a number of things you would be willing to give on and present those items first. This will create a collaborative environment that opens the door to obtaining your most important objectives later in the negotiation. When it comes to money, always begin by asking for more than you really need. Never take the group’s first offer, because it’s almost always lower than they are really willing to offer.*

Always show gratitude.

Whether your interview went well and you believe you have the job in hand, or you know it went poorly and you did not get the job, send a short handwritten thank-you note to the doctor who, in spite of being busy, took time to interview you. This little bit of effort could bring you significant opportunities in the future.*

DONTs

Do not assume you cannot negotiate.

Do not start any negotiation with, “This is my first and final offer.” Successful negotiation is about compromise.

Do not take a position that compromise means losing for either party.

Do not enter into an interview with a potential employer unprepared for negotiation.

Do not allow yourself to be emotional or argumentative.

Stay as matter-of-fact and calm as possible. It’s okay to make your point firmly and give reasons for it, but do not dwell on it. If a point is causing stress for either you or the group’s negotiator, work to resolve it quickly or agree to set it aside for the time being and continue discussing other points. This will help you avoid getting off on the wrong foot with a new employer.

Do not beg for anything at any point. If you have to beg for something, then you don’t deserve it.*

Do not lie. EVER!

If you are in financial straits, tell them. If you have 12 kids to feed, tell them. If you don’t meet a qualification and they ask, tell them. Integrity is crucial in negotiation. Without it, you could lose your job later.*

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*Oginski, G., Esq. (2005). The Doctor’s Employment Contract Bible. Great Neck, NY : The Law Office of Gerald M. Oginski, LLC.

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