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Billy King


Nonviolence News



'Had A Good Day At The Office, Darling?'

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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 working in.

The roles

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 and leave.
- 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.

Facilitators notes for 'Had a good day at the office, darling?'

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 different possibilities.

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 the roles.

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 orders’).

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.

Copyright INNATE 2016