Managing Your Practice

Negotiation Skills for Physicians



Physicians suffer from “arrested development,” said Dr. Chiang, a hospitalist and chief of inpatient services at Boston Children’s Hospital, during a PHM2014 workshop on the basics of negotiation. Dr. Chiang was referring to the fact that in several professional realms, including negotiation, most physicians have not had the traditional experience of interviewing and negotiating for jobs after high school or college.

An understanding of several negotiation concepts can help the negotiator achieve an agreeable solution. Awareness of values and limits prior to the actual discussion or negotiation will increase the chance of a successful negotiation. Examples of some of these concepts are:

  1. Best alternative to a negotiation agreement (BATNA). This is the course of action if negotiations fail. The negotiator should not accept a worse resolution than the BATNA.
  2. Reservation value (RV). This is the lowest value a negotiator will accept in a deal.
  3. Zone of possible agreement (ZOPA). This is the intellectual zone between two parties in a negotiation where an agreement can be reached.

The twin tasks of negotiation are a) learning about the true ZOPA in advance and b) determining how to influence the other person’s perception of this zone.

There are several negotiation methods and strategies of influence that can be used to support your position or goals. For example, status quo bias is very common. Addressing the specific reason a person is not willing to change from the status quo enables progress.

While it is important to advocate for one’s position, fairness is an important variable in reaching an agreement. Fairness often is not universally defined. Communication is essential in understanding each group’s position.

Key Takeaway

  1. Before entering a negotiation, understand your best alternative to a negotiation agreement, as well as your reservation value.
  2. Understand your zone of possible agreement, and be aware of the zone of possible agreement of the person you are working with.
  3. Learn strategies of influence to assist negotiations.
  4. Fairness will assist you in reaching an agreement.

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