Employment Negotiation Role-Play:

Kelly Corporation, The

Ron Karp and Bruce Patton

Three-party brief negotiation among a supervisor and two employees who are each asking for a raise

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Two productive employees of the Kelly Corporation are about to meet with their boss to discuss a raise. The employer and each of the employees have different ideas concerning pay increases.



The exercise is structured as a single negotiation between both employees and the boss. As little as five minutes can a be allowed for planning; the meeting itself can last from 5-15 minutes. Videotaping can be useful for review of assertiveness and nonverbal communication.



  • This case calls for fine interpersonal skills in balancing assertiveness and relationship maintenance. What general guidelines seem applicable for preserving a good working relationship?
  • The problem of power imbalance, typical in employee relations, are highlighted. This is probably a good case for principled negotiation, but useful criteria may be hard to come by.
  • In speaking to the boss together, the employees have to address the issue of whether to take a competitive, cooperative, or monolithic approach, and how to maintain it in the face of various employer tactics.
  • The employer has to confront the issue of how to distinguish between the two employees, without embittering the less well rewarded. Ethical choices loom as potentially important.



Role Specific:

Confidential Instructions for the:

  • Employer
  • Employees (same or both)


Teacher's Package:

  • All of the above



Agenda control; Anchoring; BATNA; Closure; Communication; Fairness; Interpersonal skills; Legitimacy; Nonverbal communication; Objective criteria; Personality; Power imbalance; Precedents; Psychological games; Relationship; Risk perception

Kelly Corporation, The Attributes

Time required: Less than 30 minutes
Number of participants: 3
Teams involved: No
Agent present: None
Neutral third party present: None
Scoreable: No
Teaching notes available: No
Non-English version available: German, Spanish