Version A: Axis Electronics is a huge Silicon Valley-based computer firm with its Microcomputer Development division of sixty employees located just outside Boston. Richard Van Heusen, Executive Vice President of Microcomputer Development, hired Denise Webster, a life-long New Englander with high academic credentials in microcomputers, to work as a manager in the division; she is the first female manager in that division, and the only professional woman with whom Richard has dealt in twenty years of business. An extremely challenging work assignment (solo development of a mouse/drawing pad prototype), followed by a series of social advances by Richard, leads Denise to work at home and miss work without explanation. Richard, stating that the project is in jeopardy and that Denise is not committed to Axis, demotes her from her position as project head and gives her notice of termination. Denise's attorney meets with Axis' in-house counsel to discuss the situation and attempt to resolve it before commencing any formal legal activity. Neither party knows much about the other's interest. Resolution of the situation is possible without litigation; while there are salary and profit figures to be handled, and agreement should not occur unless the specific problems of possible sexual harassment and gender discrimination between Richard and Denise are discussed and settled, and a company policy and grievance process for future situations is discussed as well.
Version B: Same as Version A, except that Axis Electronics is a 500-employee computer firm located in Massachusetts; Denise is not specified to be a lifelong New Englander, and has experience with personal computers as well as microcomputers. In this version, it may be possible to gloss over the current situation, but it will not be possible to reach an agreement which involves rehiring Denise but does not set up a company policy and grievance process for handling future situations involving possible sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
The exercise works best with one attorney per side. The parties' instructions require 20-30 minutes to read and analyze. Negotiation can take 40-50 minutes; review can last anywhere from 40-90 minutes.
TEACHING MATERIALS (Both Versions):
For all parties:
- Review Questionnaire
- Axis Electronics Attorney
- Denise Webster's Attorney
Teacher's Package (26 pages total):
- All of the above material
- Teaching Note
- List of Suggested Readings
- The partisan perceptions on each side can contribute to difficulty in understanding the other party's "take" on the situation and its causes. Attempts to educate can take place at two levels: educating the other negotiator, and educating the client. Participants can discuss how partisan perceptions affected their acceptance of differing interpretations of the case at hand, and the methods they used to try to educate their negotiating partner. The group can discuss possible ways to educate clients, in the initial interviews and in the post-negotiation discussion and presentation of an agreement for approval (this will be helpful for the client memos each side is required to write after the exercise and review).
- Fairness and power imbalance questions are triggered by the issues of sexual harassment and gender discrimination present in the exercise. These two problems can be specifically addressed, or they can be broadened to serve as a base of discussion of difference issues in negotiating. Participants can explore the possibilities of miscommunication, societal causes, how the presence of a possible stereotype or difference affects negotiating strategy, and how to balance a desire for social change with the client's interests in this case.
Attorney/Client relations; BATNA; Disclosure; Issues of difference; Fairness; Interests, dovetailing; Interests, internal ordering; Lawyering; Objective criteria; Partisan perceptions; Power imbalance