here to view print version
Introduction; This is a simple
'fighting pairs' role play or drama for 2 people on conflict
in the work place or in voluntary groups. The exact context
needs to be defined more closely before starting. It is most
useful as a starting point for concrete discussion of conflict
in groups which can include sharing of personal experiences
and planning for making the place(s) concerned better for
Mr / Ms Oldhand
- You've been in this organisation* a long time. You know
the ropes. You know what's best because you've seen different
things tried and failed over the years.
- You tend to be impatient with people who expect things to
change quickly; you see them as impractical.
- You can be helpful when you have a good day and you always
try to treat others fairly and in a civil manner.
- But you don't like people getting things wrong and you don't
forget mistakes. You feel mistakes are unnecessary.
- You see yourself as providing stability, common sense and,
indeed, wisdom to the organisation at a time when you feel
it's badly needed.
Mr / Ms Newcome
- You've been in this organisation* just a year - it only
feels like a decade.
- You want to change working practices since even in the year
you've been here you've seen other people come and go because
it is a poor place to work and any ideas that are different
never see the light of day.
a) Non-hierarchical situations; You're actually on the same
level in the organisation as Mr/Ms Oldhand but they treat
you as inferior OR
b) Hierarchical situations; Mr/Ms Oldhand in a superior/managerial
position to you but they go beyond that to treat you as generally
inferior, not just in status but personally and in how they
treat the ideas you come forward with.
- You don't show it but underneath you're angry that the negative,
'cannot change' atmosphere in the organisation leads to so
much waste, especially waste of people who can't stand it
- You see Mr/Ms Oldhand as a key figure in why it's a bad
place to work and you decide to try to have a reasoned discussion
with them about it.....
* for 'organisation' read 'group', 'office' or whatever is
most appropriate to your situation, so long as the context
is agreed and understood by both members of the 'fighting
pair' - each pair needs to define the situation and give each
other a couple of minutes to get into role before starting.
There should be time for anyone unfamiliar with the context
to ask questions and feel 'at home' in the role play.
This is intended as an exercise to get people
warmed up on experiences they have had of group dynamics in
the work place or voluntary groups. As such this initial session
can be done in a minimum of three-quarters an hour, including
brief comments from people in the larger group about how it
was for them in role; but this approach should only be used
in an ongoing group where issues arising are going to be addressed
at a later stage (and this needs acknowledged). However it
can lead to a much longer exploration of people's experiences
and to the brainstorming and planning of alternatives, and
a return can be made to role play at this stage to explore
Defining the context is crucial. If everyone
is involved in the one organisation or group you may (or may
not!) want to define that as the context. Otherwise you need
to give each pair, when they have formed, time to pick a particular
context and share sufficient information about that situation
so there can be a meaningful role play. If emotions are too
raw within a group on particular recent experiences then allowing
those situations to be taken could be explosive which, depending
on the context and the skills you feel you have as a facilitator,
may be a good or a bad idea. If uncertain then it may be safer
to come at the issues from a tangent and ask people to take
situations other than the current one.
The role-play can either proceed as a free-for-all,
or you can allocate 4 or 5 minutes to each person to talk.
8 to 10 minutes should be sufficient overall. Depending on
the context and the depth of feeling exhibited it is also
a good idea to get people to switch roles for another few
minutes. After calling halt to the role play you need at least
a little time to de-role by asking how people found playing
Hopefully people should now be in 'fighting
fit' form to share their trials and tribulations. Either looking
for volunteers, or going around the circle allowing people
to 'pass', you can invite people to share on situations where
they feel they were treated badly or there was an inadequate
response to concerns they were raising. Issues should be written
on a flipchart by generic type (e.g. ‘Leadership issues
and authority’ and not ‘Bill gave lots of autocratic
Depending on the number of work/voluntary situations
involved, you can invite people to caucus (or stay in one
group) and then brainstorm possibilities and alternatives
in making the situation better. This can be taken further
to concrete planning by people from the one situation.
This role-play can throw up significant
emotions and it is the facilitator's task (yours!) to ensure
that those involved are supported emotionally and practically,
and to follow the matter through. You may also need to allow
sufficient time for people to plan and work on alternatives
if they desire to do so; they may prefer not to do this, which
is entirely up to them.