Negotiation Exercises Designed To Help Settle Workplace Conflict

By — on / Teaching Negotiation

Fighting For Your Livelihood

From brokering a contract to negotiating a salary, there are many workplace disputes that affect employees. Among the most challenging are those involving employers and unions. That’s the case with Happy Valley Consolidated School District/AFTEA Labor-Management Committee Meeting, one of many negotiation exercises brought to you by the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC).

In this role-play simulation the teachers’ union representatives and school district representatives must negotiate several critical issues. With this two-team, six issue negotiation exercise, participants explore the question:

How do you handle internal and external conflicts?
During the collective bargaining session, the labor and management groups agreed to monthly committee meetings; however, there is now a great deal of debate about whether the meetings are worthwhile. Both the labor and management teams have attended a recent training session where they discussed new ways to run meetings. This Committee Meeting is everyone’s first chance to try out the new approaches. In this negotiation role-play, participants discuss the meeting process itself as well as key issues such as a wellness program, dress codes, and asbestos in the school’s roof.

During the course of the meeting, participants:

  • Assess the ongoing relationship between two groups that have traditionally been adversaries
  • Practice techniques for managing and working through internal team conflicts
  • Explore how an effective labor-management committee operates, including agenda-setting and communication
  • Utilize problem-solving strategies like paraphrasing, active listening, and brainstorming

Binder Kadeer: Consultation in the Company is another of the TNRC’s popular negotiation exercises.

Ever since Binder Kadeer emigrated from Malaysia to the United States, he’s worked at the Company. For the last eight years, he’s been employed in several minor managerial positions in customer field engineering services. However, despite management reports that indicate that he’s a good employee, Kadeer has gone many years without a promotion. Believing he has been unfairly treated, Kadeer files a complaint with the Company’s affirmative action office, charging his manager with discrimination.

In this multi-party negotiation simulation, participants—in their roles as employee, manager, and human resource consultants—must explore the situation and come to a satisfactory resolution. Specifically, participants explore the question:

How do you de-escalate a difficult situation?

During the course of this negotiation role-play, participants learn to:

  • Stabilize emotions, manage conflict, and solve problems
  • Explore reality testing to help colleagues understand the consequences of their actions
  • Distinguish stated positions from underlying interests
  • Reframe problems and develop strategies based on new options
  • Identify the gaps that need to be bridged in order to develop a “yessable” agreement

This is just the beginning of the many negotiation exercises available through the TNRC. In fact, we have an entire section dedicated to labor relations negotiation exercises like Binder Kadeer: Consultation in the Company and Happy Valley Consolidated School District/AFTEA Labor-Management Committee Meeting.

In addition to salary and benefits issues, safety concerns and interpersonal conflicts are also common workplace issues that need to be resolved. Effective negotiation and dispute resolution techniques—like the ones taught in TNRC’s role-plays—can help achieve desirable outcomes for everyone involved.

TNRC: A go-to resource for more than 25 years

In addition to offering more than 200 negotiation exercises, the TNRC offers a wide range of effective teaching materials, including:

TNRC materials are designed for educational purposes. Negotiation exercises and videos are used in college classroom settings or corporate training settings; used by mediators and facilitators seeking to introduce their clients to a process or issue; and used by individuals who want to enhance their negotiation skills and knowledge.

Negotiation exercises introduce participants to new negotiation and dispute resolution tools, techniques and strategies. Our videos, books, case studies, and periodicals are also a helpful way of introducing viewers to key concepts while addressing the theory and practice of negotiation and conflict management.

Check out all that the TNRC has in store >>

Originally published in 2014.

The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School
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