Tip of the Week: Enhancing Negotiation Skills, Part 2


This week’s tip stresses that negotiation is a learned skill.

The concept and importance of negotiation skills in professional practice and in our everyday lives was addressed in the first part of this series. This week’s tip stresses that negotiation is indeed a learned skill. Like other skills, such as leadership, many pharmacists are under the false impression that such skills are something one is simply “born with”.

In the Journal of Health Organization and Management, an article examines the teaching and learning of negotiation as an essential skill for clinicians in a competitive health care system.1 The authors discuss how corporate firms have long recognized the value of skillful negotiators and have invested in training programs to increase the negotiation skills of their managers. They state further that negotiation skills training aims to improve engagement and collaboration between health care professionals, and is an important asset among health care providers, yet clinicians receive little or no preparation in negotiation as part of their medical training. The authors lament that negotiation skills are often thought of merely as conflict resolution.

While conflict resolution is important, it is only 1 of the many problems to which negotiation skills can be successfully applied. In everyday work, clinicians must negotiate with each other to clarify roles and responsibilities, and to distribute resources among patient care teams. If this is accomplished effectively, conflict resolution is unlikely to be required.

A white paper from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), “A Framework for Safe, Reliable and Effective Care”, identified negotiation as 1 of the 5 components of health care culture, alongside leadership, accountability, psychological safety, and teamwork and communication).2 Authors of the study employed an intervention to improve negotiation skills for clinicians and management staff at a tertiary hospital. They characterized participants according to a style described in the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) as either accommodating, compromising, competing, avoiding, borrowing, avoiding, or collaborating (ie, creating a “win-win”). The investigators found that participants generally reported positive affective reactions to the training, and attempted to implement at least some of the skills in the workplace. The main enabler was provision of a negotiation toolkit to assist in preparing and conducting negotiations. The main barrier was lack of time to reflect on the principles and prepare for upcoming negotiations.

Pharmacists and pharmacy managers can learn negotiation skills, and put them into use in practice. It behooves the manager to not only improve their own negotiation skills but also those of their employees, as this will come in handy when dealing with patients, other providers, and with payers. Doing so does not require a tremendous investment of resources.

Additional information about Negotiation Skills can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.


  • Tip of the Week: Enhancing Negotiation Skills (Part 1)

Shane P. Desselle, RPh, PhD, FAPhA, Professor of Social Behavioral Pharmacy at Touro University in California.


  • Clay-Williams R, Johnson A, Lane P, et al. Collaboration in a competitive health care system: Negotiation 101 for clinicians. J Health Organ Manage. 2018;32:263-278.
  • Institute for Healthcare Improvement. A Framework for Safe and Reliable Care. Accessed January 10, 2021. http://www.ihi.org/resources/Pages/IHIWhitePapers/Framework-Safe-Reliable-Effective-Care.aspx

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