Slicing Up the Pie

January 6, 2017

Not-so-equal shares in radiology.

What with the abundance of holidays and other festive excuses for overindulgence at this time of year, you’ve probably recently had more than a few instances of seeing ovoid foodstuffs sliced into portions for distribution to those in attendance.

It’s funny how the cutting of these things grabs at one’s attention. Early in life, probably just because one knows the slicing is a necessary precursor to receiving some for cramming in one’s piehole.

A bit of aging and sophistication later, the focus is shifted to watchfulness that one’s own piece is at least as big as the other kids’. Fast-forward a few decades, and now it’s the opposite: Stating clearly, for as many to hear as possible, one’s self-restrained desire to have the smallest slice possible, soon followed by protests that one was given too much.

Those priding themselves on having dessert slices so thin they might best be measured in Angstrom units have, however, often remained as vigilant as ever, even more so, in keeping tabs on more metaphorical slice thicknesses, not only received by themselves but as many other humans as possible. On a societal level, or closer to home. For instance, within a group a professionals, when it comes to figuring out who gets paid what.

Much like that pumpkin pie you enjoyed a few weeks ago, the group’s pot of earnings is a finite thing. If Dr. A is to receive a slightly larger share, it’s going to come out of someone else’s. Drs. B and C will probably have something to say about that.

For the typical doc out of training, if he has worked in X number of settings, he knows of at least X+1 methods of solving this issue. The +1 comes about because everybody has imagined at least one plan that none of his jobs has heretofore employed, yet he is pretty darned sure would be the best ever. If only he ever had the chance to implement it, or convince someone else to.

All of these methods, however, come down to the basic question of how much bean counting you are willing to embrace. That is, the moment you step away from the idealistic situation of everybody getting an equal slice of the pie (probably because of the practical impossibility of everybody putting in an equal share of the work and/or taking an equal share of risk), things rapidly get more complicated.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"55522","attributes":{"alt":"Equal shares in radiology","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_5986117512671","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"6956","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 167px; width: 171px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":" ","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

After all, you can’t get mathematically simpler than (pie ÷ number of pie-eaters). Even if it’s just a matter of adding 2% to eater A and deducting 1% each from B and C, not only is this a wrinkle you’re going to have to remember going forward, but you’re opening the door to endless wrangling from A about how he should be getting more than 2% extra, B and C about how they should not be the only ones kicking in for A, and everyone else in the alphabet knowing that a precedent has now been set for something other than universally equal shares.

Then, much like slicing up an actual pie, even the slicing itself takes a little away from the portions. (Some gets stuck on the knife, some lost to the tin, etc.) That translates to the time and resources spent in meetings and accounting on figuring out all of the complicated little wrinkles you baked into your system. The same amount of time you spend hassling over 1% of the pie in a given year could, for instance, have been spent reading more studies or securing more referrals, and having the pie itself a couple percent bigger.