Everything You Know About Salary Negotiation Is Wrong–Part 2


Salary Negotiation for Physicians and Doctors for Employment Contracts
If You Don’t Negotiate, You May Be Turning Your Back on Tens of Thousands of Dollars a Year–or MORE

In Part 1, you learned why these “negotiation commandments” below are wrong – and how to make them right:

  • You should never disclose your salary or your requirements first
  • When your offer is too low, negotiate up
  • Splitting the difference always works in your favor
  • Without competing offers, you have no leverage
  • Always negotiate hard: if you get the offer of your dreams, you can still get more

Today, we’re going to cover the other 5 myths:

  • If there’s an HR department and they’re handling the negotiations, you have to deal with them
  • Your value is “fixed”– meaning it’s about the same at every practice
  • If you’ve negotiated a lot, you’re a great negotiator
  • Policies are never negotiable
  • Employment agreements are only negotiable if you’re a superstar

Myth #1: If there’s an HR department and they’re handling the negotiations, you have to deal with them
HR is an intermediate position. They are interlocutors between the doctor or medical director who really wants you – and yourself.

If you know the person you’ll be working for is really committed to hiring you, but you can’t work it out with HR, just tell HR you’ll get back to them.  Then, contact your manager-to-be directly.  Will this always work?  No.  But do you want to work for someone who isn’t willing to intercede on your behalf?  Probably not.

What about telling HR that you don’t see that agreement is possible, but that you’d like to set up a time to talk to your manager-to-be?  Definitely that’s the “right” way to do it, but you may be told “no,” your request may be buried, or it may never be conveyed at all.

In my view – and not everyone will agree with me – it’s worth taking the risk.  There is a risk, make no mistake about it, but the rewards are great.  Note: If you absolutely, truly need the job and you have no other options whatsoever, this may be a risk you don’t want to take.

Myth #2: Your value is “fixed”–meaning it’s about the same at every practice
Your value to employers is relative.  Your market value is a mean (or median) of other physicians’ values in your area of practice.  But your value to a given practice (or hospital if you’re a hospitalist) may be much higher.

Let’s suppose that you are an endocrinologist who specializes in some of the rarer forms of thyroid disease; or a neurosurgeon who has a reputation like Dr. Ben Carson, where your “star power” carries value; or a neurologist who specializes in MS (when no one in the practice has that as a sole specialization).

You must want the job, but they must want you.  You need to know why they want you.  Perhaps their leading internist (or specialist) just left.  Now they are in trouble and they need “star power” to show that they hired someone even better.  Or their best pediatric ENT left, and while they have ENTs capable of performing tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies, they don’t have anyone with your experience.

All of these factors are leverage for you. Use them.

Myth #3: If you’ve negotiated a lot, you’re a great negotiator
Let me introduce you to Bill Bergen. Right after the turn of the century, Bergen was a catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He played Major League Baseball for 11 years.  He was quite a good defensive catcher.  On the other hand, he had 3,228 at-bats in his career.  In these at-bats, he had a total of two home runs (over 11 years) and the lowest batting average of anyone in MLB history with over 2,500 at-bats: .170.  Bergen had plenty of experience batting, but he was a terrible hitter.  When it comes to negotiating, you can have all the experience in the world, but that doesn’t guarantee you a home run deal.  When it comes to negotiating, remember Bill Bergen.  Get the support you need and be prepared every time.

Myth #4: Policies are never negotiable
“Our practice never allows …” “I’ve done agreements with hundreds of people and no one has ever asked for that before.”

Don’t be intimidated by these statements.  If your request is inherently reasonable, and if you remain professional and calm, you may very well be able to get what you want.  Ask them: “Can you help me understand why your practice doesn’t allow X ?” Sometimes, you’ll hear a good answer.  Many times you’ll hear “because we’ve always done that” or “because that’s simply our policy.”  You can prevail in the last two cases.  But don’t make the colossal mistake of getting into these discussions until you have solid compensation in hand.  You don’t want to trade compensation for policy changes: rather, you want to secure compensation, after which you can work out the small details.

Myth #5: Employment agreements are only negotiable if you’re a superstar 
Everything is negotiable.  As discussed in the last bullet, employment agreements are negotiable if you negotiate them.  Most people assume that, because they aren’t a superstar, they don’t have the “right” to ask.  You won’t always get what you want, but you’d be surprised how often you do.  Many employers will try to put a damper on your drive to negotiate by saying, “We have a lot of candidates, but we like you.  It’s important to be reasonable though.”  Usually this means they really want to hire you, and they’ve been tasked to get the best deal possible.  Whatever you do, don’t apologize. Use the techniques I’ve explained here to let them know that you like them and that you feel you’ve been extremely reasonable.  Or say: “I like you, too. But I don’t quite understand what you mean.” Then let them talk. Put them on the spot. When you know how they are defining “unreasonable,” you can respond appropriately.  Don’t be intimidated by this last-minute negotiation technique; instead, be prepared for it.

I welcome your questions and comments.  When tens of thousands of dollars are in the balance, I can help you get a better deal.  Just contact me at steven@thebrandmason.com.  I offer telephone consultations and negotiation coaching, including role-play (I can be tougher than 99% of the people you’ll face!).  I’ll work through actual negotiation scenarios for you, tailored to your personal situation and facts.  I can also write a response, email or otherwise, to an offer you’ve received.

photo  Steven Mason

Steven Mason is a member of the Editorial Board for DoctorCPR.com.  He has extensive experience guiding physicians step-by-step through negotiating their work contracts and he is also a recommended consultant for branding medical practices.  He is an active contributor, advisor, and consultant for new businesses on Quora and Clarity.fm.  For more information, visit www.thebrandmason.com.

Copyright ©2017 Steven Mason. All rights reserved.

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