Physicians who are better negotiators and understand how to negotiate their employment agreements will do significantly better than their colleagues.

Remember, you can not only negotiate about salary and benefits but also for an improved lifestyle for both you and your family.

While negotiation is an art and a learned skill, the following pullet-point techniques, if studied and utilized, will help all physicians to achieve better outcomes in their employment contract negotiations.

Preparation Summary

  1. Gather all relevant information about the person you will be negotiating with: his/her interests, goals, the companies and their programs or products. The more you know, the better your chance of success.
  2. Clarify the issues to be discussed and negotiated. If necessary, prepare a written agenda.
  3. Analyze the information you gathered. Give yourself time to think it through.
  4. Set your goals and targets and figure out what the other side is likely to argue or seek.
  5. Develop a decision tree so that you are prepared for all scenarios.
  6. Be flexible so that you can react and incorporate new information you learn during the negotiation.

    Aspiration Level and Goals Summary
  1. Set your goals high but do not turn off your opponent.
  2. Don’t settle for the average.
  3. Convince yourself with objective information and then convince your opponent.
  4. Develop your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement).
  5. In principle negotiations use a “fair standard”.
  6. Have alternate goals available to you and use them.
  7. Recognize when you are in the driver’s seat and make them pay.

Long Term Relationships:  Win-Win Summary

  1. Negotiating with colleagues in long term relationships is more challenging than one shot negotiations with strangers.
  2. Search for a better deal for all parties.
  3. Use creative solutions.
  4. Use the “us against the problem technique”.
  5. Build up relationship and trust over time.
  6. Be a “straight shooter” with integrity and high quality work.
  7. Be sensitive to the needs, desires, and concerns of the party you are negotiating with.
  8. Be flexible.
  9. Point out your other long term relationships.
  10. Do favors for your opponent.
  11. Start well before the actual negotiating to build the relationship.

Power Summary

You want to:

  1. Do your homework: Knowledge is power.
  2. Be the person with the expertise.
  3. Raise the anxiety level of your opponent.
  4. Use industry standards to your advantage.
  5. Recognize the impact of “investment”.
  6. Utilize risk taking to increase your power.
  7. Use your ability to cope with uncertainty.

    Information Summary

  1. We want to determine the authority level of the person you are dealing with and, if possible, deal with the person with the most authority possible to avoid any “trickle down loss”.
  2. You want to ask open-ended questions to get as much information as possible. You can also use leading questions, suggestive questions, and “what if questions”.
  3. You use the 3 D’s to defer, deflect or delay answering questions you want to avoid.
  4. You phrase your questions carefully.
  5. You want to utilize active listening skills and hear what is being said, what is being omitted, and look for verbal leaks.
  6. You want to read your opponents and control your own body language.
  7. You want to determine and utilize your opponent’s needs, interests and desires, and
  8. You want to be liked by your opponent.

Time Summary

  1. You want to negotiate when you are prepared, ready, not distracted, and when you least need the deal and your opponent’s need is greater.
  2. Watch out for ambush negotiations.
  3. Pause when you need to; consult with others; or sleep on it.
  4. Build in some acceptance time for new ideas or terms.
  5. Use deadlines effectively: set your opponent’s deadlines as short as possible. Do not obsess about your own deadlines and seek an extension if you need one.
  6. Try and discuss your opponent’s true deadline as soon as possible.
  7. Use accelerated deadlines to buy yourself enough time to reduce pressure and deal with unforeseen circumstances.

Concessions Summary

  1. Leave yourself room to negotiate,
  2. The best concession cost you little but is valued by your opponent,
  3. Try to get your opponent to make the first concession,
  4. If you make the first concession, make it a small one,
  5. Try and get a concession of equal value back from each one you make,
  6. Increase the value of your concessions by making your opponent work for them,
  7. Watch your rate of concessions: not steady and decrease if possible,
  8. Leave your opponent a good story to justify your great deal to his/her boss, and
  9. Look for options to make deal win-win.


Physicians who take the time to prepare for their employment contract negotiations and utilize the techniques outlined above are best positioned to achieve success at their negotiation.

About the Author

Steven Babitsky, Esq. is an experienced author and negotiator. He is the co-author of The Physician’s Comprehensive Guide to Negotiation, which can be found on He is the trainer for the seminar on DVD Negotiating Skills for Physicians. He can be reached at