A professor’s missing manuscript

By — on / Negotiation Skills

The Clearinghouse at PON offers hundreds of role simulations, from two-party, single-issue negotiations to complex multi-party exercises. The following role simulation is a two-party short awareness-building exercise in which student and professor meeting regarding problems arising from a borrowed manuscript and the student’s research aspirations.

SCENARIO: A law student has an appointment with the only professor who has given the student an A+. The student has two objectives for the meeting–getting a recommendation and a research assistant-ship with the professor. The professor is currently writing a book on copyright law and computer software, a subject of great interest to the student, who in fact borrowed the professor’s manuscript, and has kept it longer than agreed. The professor does not know why the appointment was made, but remembers the student as being intelligent and personable, and thinks that perhaps it is the same student who borrowed the missing manuscript. A search for this draft manuscript was initiated sometime ago. Since that time, the professor has had to rewrite many portions from scratch.

MECHANICS: The two parties meet for approximately 5-15 minutes. Either party can be given additional role instructions about the kind of person to play. Videotaping is helpful for review. The exercise can be run twice, with the parties switching roles in the second round.


Role specific:

Confidential Instructions for the:



PROCESS THEMES: agenda control; apologies; communication; credibility; emotions; ethics; fairness; information exchange; interpersonal skills; issue control; misrepresentation; nonverbal communication; personality; power imbalance; psychological games; relationship; risk aversion; separating the people from the problem.


This exercise focuses on interpersonal skills and psychological awareness. How do different individuals approach each role? What does that suggest about their psychological interests? Are they effective? Why or why not?

There is also a clear opportunity and considerable incentive for mis- representation by the student. How do different people handle this, and what consequences does misrepresentation have in their verbal and nonverbal behavior?

This exercise presents a challenge worthy of a skilled negotiator: to tell the truth in a way that strengthens the relationship and allows the other issues to be dealt with positively, each on merits.

To purchase a copy of this role simulation, click here.

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