The Moral Quandary: Negotiation Exercises Featuring Ethical Dilemmas

Negotiation simulations designed to help resolve future ethical disputes

By on / Teaching Negotiation

In a negotiation, few issues heighten tensions faster than when one party feels that the other party has done something ethically or morally incorrect.

To help professionals prepare for times like this, the Program on Negotiation’s Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC) offers a variety of negotiation exercises designed to teach participants how to handle disputes that are fraught with ethical issues.

Two of the TNRCs most useful role-play negotiation exercises are DONS Negotiation and Commonwealth v. McGorty.

DONS Negotiation – Featured Negotiation Exercise

This two-party role-play between a former couple and their lawyers regarding the knowing transmission of DONS, a fatal disease, is laden with ethical difficulties and late-in-the-game revelations.

In this effective negotiation exercise, participants:

  • Develop an understanding of the model rules of professional conduct for attorneys, the problem of disclosure, and the common law of fraud
  • Understand the framework of three tensions: between creating and distributing value, between empathy and assertiveness, and between principal and agent
  • Discuss the role of ethics in negotiation and the role of rules in ethics
  • Explore manipulating rules versus honoring the values embodied by the rules
  • Realize how one’s reputation as a negotiator can be very important in shaping future negotiations where trust will be necessary to arrive at an optimal deal

Commonwealth v. McGorty – Featured Negotiation Exercise

Two police officers on patrol were stopped by a woman screaming that she had just been assaulted by a man in a nearby car. When approached by the police, the man – Martin McGorty – fled, but was soon apprehended. This role-play exercise centers on a negotiation between two prosecutors, a public defender, and the alleged assailant.

In this four-person negotiation exercise, participants will have ample opportunity to explore many questions including:

  • How does an attorney reconcile the tension between his/her own interests, the client’s interests, and societal interests?
  • How do an attorney’s personal feelings influence the outcome of negotiation?
  • How does the quality of attorney-client communication and the strength of the attorney-client relationship influence the outcome?
  • How will the current negotiation between the prosecutor and the public defender impact their ongoing relationship?
  • How should the legal system weigh probability of future harm against procedural rights?

Take your training to the next level with the TNRC

The Teaching Negotiation Resource Center offers a wide range of effective teaching materials, including

Most TNRC materials are designed for educational purposes— for use in college classrooms or corporate training settings. TNRC cases and negotiation exercises help mediators and facilitators introduce their clients to a process or issue and help individuals who want to enhance their negotiation skills and knowledge.

Role-play simulations and negotiation exercises introduce participants to new negotiation and dispute resolution tools, techniques and strategies. Videos are also a helpful way of introducing viewers to key concepts, and TNRC books, case studies, and periodicals address the theory and practice of negotiation and conflict management.

Check out all that the TNRC has in store >>

Originally published in 2014.

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