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Physicians, Don’t Let These Excuses Stop Your Salary Negotiations 

Physicians, Don't Doubt Your Worth & Negotiate with Confidence
Jacek Dudzinski/

Yes! No! Definitely! Definitely not! Maybe. Yes, it’s a definite maybe! Early, late, half-time, never?  You first. NEVER you first. When? How? Where? You changed your mind. Paper, email, text, a singing telegram? Get in their face; be demure. NEVER use these words; ALWAYS use these words. Is the market up or down? Wear blue. Wear black. Wear scrubs.

Such are the agonies, uncertainties, and the perseveration of negotiating a salary. You shouldn’t have to suffer so much – you did enough of that during your training. I’m providing some excuses you can use to avoid the discomfort of salary negotiation. Try them on before your interview. You’ll find something. If you don’t find a good fit, don’t worry. The universe never runs out of excuses.


Excuse #1:  It could cause a tense start

No one wants to make adversaries before the first day on the job. Unfortunately, this excuse is easy to debunk. Negotiating a salary is one of the tasks of hiring. Employers do it all the time. They expect it. If you don’t negotiate, you may seem awfully naïve – too naïve. So, you’re uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean you’re doing the wrong thing, Remember your first driving lesson? Your first date? Those were uncomfortable, but here you are to tell the tales.

Excuse #2:  They might retract the offer

They reviewed your application; you both have invested time and money in interviews, and possibly expenses for travel. They aren’t going to throw that effort away just because you make a (reasonable) counter-offer. The worst-case scenario is that they’ll say, “Our offer is firm.”

Excuse #3:  I don’t know what I’m worth

This is true for too many people, sabotaging their own value. Ignorance lessens worth. There are many Internet sites which supply salary information in almost any field. Physicians and other providers should look to salary surveys produced by organizations such as Medscape or if you can get your hands on it, the annual MGMA physician compensation survey.

Excuse #4:  They’ve already offered their top salary limit

If you can make yourself believe this, I’d like to sell you the London Bridge. It’s in Arizona now. 

Excuse #5:  I don’t want to seem greedy

What if your counter offer triggers resentment and the company doesn’t want someone who refuses to accept a good offer?  Even if the company told you that their first offer was their best offer, they’ve almost always left some room for negotiation if your counter offer is reasonable.

Excuse #6:  I’ll get started, and then ask for a raise

No tension there. You won’t look greedy before you sign on, and you don’t even have to know your worth. Most companies, however, have firm rules about a time frame for considering a change in salary – usually there will be no changes considered for 6 months to a year. Future raises are often based on a percentage of the salary. You could adversely affect your income for the duration that you’re with the company. A 5.0 percent raise based on an annual salary of $50K is a lot higher than a raise based on $45K.

Excuse #7:  Negotiating is difficult and complicated, and I’ll just make a fool of myself

If this is your thinking, you’re probably right.

Excuse #8:  I’m happy with the offer

The offer they made was much higher than you expected, but then you find a co-worker with the same qualifications and experience as you, also a new hire, is making 10 percent more than you are making. Just try not to ruminate on that from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. You may get to spend your evening kicking yourself for not knowing the market value for your skills. So – please negotiate. Give what you perceive as surplus to a charity, foundation, or me.


With the exception of #7, I’ve failed to supply you with pseudo-excuses with which you can deceive yourself. The best things you can do, regarding salary negotiation, are:

  1. Prepare
  2. Prepare
  3. Prepare

Negotiating is both you and the employer investing in each other. You’re working at meeting both parties’ needs. Everyone is more productive in an atmosphere of good will. It builds your sense of security – they invested in you. Most of the time, it will get you a higher salary and more.

Virtually all companies expect negotiation, and will respect you more than if you fail to negotiate. The employees in greatest demand are those who are critical thinkers, productivity-minded, and business-literate.

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About Faith A. Coleman, MD

Dr. Coleman is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and holds a BA in journalism from UNM. She completed her family practice residency at Wm. Beaumont Hospital, Troy and Royal Oak, MI, consistently ranked among the United States Top 100 Hospitals by US News and World Report. Her experience includes faculty appointments to a family practice residency and three medical schools, as well as Director of Women's and Children's Health Promotion Programs with the NE Texas Public Health District.

Dr. Coleman is the Expert on Gifted Children for the New York Times, parenting writer for Demand Media Studios, as well as health and medical writer for several online information services. She writes professional management material for health care providers and about the personal experience of being a physician. Faith treasures most the role of mother. Her passions include the well-being and education of children and families.