Negotiation in academic medicine: A necessary career skill

Suzanne Sarfaty, Deborah Kolb, Rosalind Barnett, Laura Szalacha, Cheryl Caswell, Thomas Inui, Phyllis L. Carr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Scopus citations


Aims: Negotiation and its use in academic medicine have not been studied. Little is known about faculty experience with negotiation or its potential benefits for academe. Barriers to negotiation and how they can be addressed, especially for faculty without perceived skill in negotiation, are unknown. Methods: To better understand the problems that such faculty experience, we completed in-depth, individual telephone interviews of 20 academic medical faculty at 11 of the 24 medical schools in the National Faculty Survey, all of whom perceived difficulty in negotiation. Faculty were stratified by rank, gender, and degree. Semistructured interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed by five reviewers. We explored the role of negotiation in academe, barriers to negotiation, what faculty and institutions can do to improve the use of negotiation, and possible differences in negotiation by gender. Results: Faculty were relatively unaware of the possible uses of negotiation to advance their work in academe. Women tended to see negotiation as less important to an academic career than did their male colleagues. The perceived hierarchy and secrecy of many academic medical centers was believed to create a difficult environment for negotiation. For effective negotiation to occur, faculty stated the need to prepare, gather information, especially on compensation and resources, and to know their priorities. Preparation was particularly important for women, correlating with greater comfort with the degree of aggressiveness in the negotiation and greater self-confidence after the negotiation. These informants suggested that institutions need to provide more transparent information on salary and promotion guidelines. Further, institutions need to empower faculty with a solid understanding of institutional policy, goals, and resource needs of academic life. Conclusions: Many medical faculty are insufficiently aware of, or skilled in, the negotiation process and find significant barriers to negotiate in academe. Medical centers need to improve the climate for negotiation in academic medicine to maximize the potential contributions of negotiation to the institution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-244
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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    Sarfaty, S., Kolb, D., Barnett, R., Szalacha, L., Caswell, C., Inui, T., & Carr, P. L. (2007). Negotiation in academic medicine: A necessary career skill. Journal of Women's Health, 16(2), 235-244.