Should You Be Nervous About a Nonnegotiable Contract?

From the archives!

Podcast host Justin Harvey told Jon Appino that he had recently attended an ASA (American Society of Anesthesiologists) conference. In a session where there were a handful of physicians from some of the big private practice groups, one of the physicians said (paraphrased), “If you come in here and you’re making demands about salary or bonus, there’s a bunch of people all in line right behind you. We don’t need to be flexible on our end because there’s plenty of people wanting this role. Your ability to be flexible is a key factor, and you don’t have any leverage.”

He was very blunt in making his point. If you have never encountered this type of scenario when thinking through a potential contract, you probably will. Just because you encounter a situation where you have a non-negotiable contract, there is no need to panic. Here are a few tips on how to handle it.

The value of clarification

The first thing to realize is that you are probably not going to be the one to change the situation. So don’t expect them to make exceptions for you. Negotiate?  Maybe it’s clarification.

You can still ask for clarification. The contract is not necessarily going to spell out all the details you will need to know. For example, it might mention a bonus without any additional details. This is a great opportunity to ask for clarification, especially if you encounter a situation where things do not work out. You will want to know those details up front since you will likely want to be wise in your financial planning.

Additionally, you can ask questions such as: What has the bonus been historically? When is it paid out? How is it taxed? How is it paid in the event that I don’t work here anymore due to termination, disability, or even death?  Are there any pending changes to this model in the future?  What headwinds do you see for the group with this structure? When was the last change?  Was the last change the same for all there?

You may not have any wiggle room in the contract, but you can still ask some great clarifying questions. Don’t make assumptions about the contract or terms that are not spelled out in detail. As they say, the devil is in the details!

Finding confidence with equality

Sometimes physicians call us and say, “I asked a lot of those questions, and I was told the answer is no, no, no.” That’s fine. Asking the question to them sometimes makes us aware that other people have similar situations as ours. When you ask about contract details, you will sometimes hear from the employer, “Look, everyone gets paid the same here. We can’t change it for you.” That is fine because now you know there is no discrimination against new hires – and there is equity among the group.

Whether it’s a male or female, foreign-trained or American-trained; an established physician with years of experience, or a new grad just out of training, you will know that everyone is treated the same way. This is a good thing!

Even if you cannot negotiate the terms in a contract, you can at least have the right questions to ask. This will help you feel confident that other people have a similar offer. You will also have the knowledge that there are no differences between you and the colleague who is serving alongside you.

This is just a fraction of this topic – for more, read here at a different time, or contact us anytime. We are here to help with your physician contract review.  -Contract Dx