Corporate Decision-Making Negotiation Role-Play:

Contract Negotiations in the Building Trades

Lawrence Susskind
Nine-party, multi-issue contract negotiation among three coalitions involved in the building trades; includes internal coalition meetings before the external negotiations

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Three coalitions representing building contractors, building trade unions, and users of contract services are about to begin contract negotiations. Prior to the full negotiation session, each coalition will meet to discuss internal differences. Each of the three coalitions has three members representing a different internal group. They will focus on wage increases, health benefits, and double-breasting (contractors using non-union workers through subsidiary contractors). These have been outlined in the Proposed Framework for the New Building Trades Contract distributed by the staff of the Builders Association (a member of the building contractor’s coalition). In addition, a number of other issues will need to be worked out. These derive mostly from prior relationships and skewed perceptions. A threat of a strike exists, which would disadvantage all three groups. Their objective is to reach an agreement that all parties can accept.



  • The differences in the way the players value issues open the door for trading. The parties will have to decide what they are willing to trade and what their BATNA’s are. This game provides the opportunity not only for trading across issues, but also within issues.
  • The two-tier negotiation suggests a double meaning of “success.” Parties must make both substantive and procedural decisions. If the coalitions do not embark upon the main negotiation with a united front; the meaning of “success” could easily become very individualistic.
  • The process of creating and claiming value in this game is quite explicit. Although there are only three main issues, the parties may add more or less importance to each by “reading in” certain assumptions about past or future relations.
  • This is a good exercise for people in actual contract negotiations, especially those facing multi-trade bargaining problems.
  • The important role that external parties can play is illustrated by the use of the media in this case. Parties must strategically manage external relationships in order to have the desired effect on the negotiation.
  • This game allows the players to explore the influence of threats and promises on the behavior of other parties. These must be handled carefully to have the intended effect.



This game works best with nine players (one per role). A game manager is needed to answer questions and collect written versions of each coalition’s negotiation objectives following preliminary one-hour (at minimum) meetings. The ensuing negotiations should run about two hours. More time is preferable. Debriefings take approximately one and one-half hours.



For all parties:

  • General Information
  • Proposed Framework for the New Building Trades Contract



Confidential Advice to the:

  • Builders Association
  • Technical Association
  • Basic Contractors
  • Woodworkers Union
  • Welders Union
  • Electronics Union
  • Amalgamated Refineries
  • Metropolitan Power Corporation
  • Regional Hospital Association


Teacher’s Package:

  • All of the above
  • Teacher’s notes



Agenda control; Anchoring; Apologies; Assumptions; BATNA; Bi-level negotiations; Bluffing; Caucusing; Collaborative problem-solving; Communication; Competition v. Cooperation; Consensus building; Cost-benefit analysis; Constituents; Currently perceived choice analysis; Drafting; Emotions; Ethics; Fairness; Group process; Interest analysis; Interests, quantifying; Joint game; Labor Issues; Labor Relations; Legitimacy; Meaning of “success”; Negotiating entry; Meeting design; Misrepresentation; Objective criteria; Offers, first; Packaging; Partisan perceptions; Precedents; Preparation; Pressure tactics; Public opinion; Recurring negotiations; Reservation price; Risk aversion; Risk perception; Separating the people from the problem; Threats; Time constraints; Trading, issues; Trust



Collective Bargaining at Central Division


Contract Negotiations in the Building Trades Attributes

Time required:
5 or more hours
Number of participants:
Teams involved:
Agent present:
Neutral third party present:
Teaching notes available:
PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, then you should order a single Teacher’s Package for that role simulation. A PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package is also available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. There is no need to order participant materials as well as a Teacher’s Package, as all Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters. Please note that the materials in Teacher’s Packages are for the instructor’s review and reference only, and may not be duplicated for use with participants.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

If you wish to order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Participant Copies.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required; the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Participant Copies.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.