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A Closer Look At Role-Plays ________________________________________ By: Date: November 9 2001 ________________________________________ 1.

Introduction A role-play is much more than just a five-minute training method. Heres a look at several approaches to role-plays. 2. Elements Of Role-Playing Several basic element comprise role-playing to make it effective for participant s: The Performance You dont have to be a good actor to play a part in a role-play; you just have to have a passion to learn. Every role-play takes place between two, or sometimes m ore, people playing different roles, i.e. manager and employee; employee and cus tomer. Participants may make up personalities for their role-play, or make somet hing up based on an experience theyve dealt with at work. Whatever the situation, players acting out the role should feel as though it is a real thing that could occur in everyday work life. A Chance To Experiment one beneficial element to role-playing is that it isnt actually a real conversati on or situation. Instead participants should view it as an experiment. If you sa y something regretful during a role-play, you can start over - something you cant do in a real conversation. Along the same lines, give the same role-play situation to various participants in the group to get several ideas on how to approach an issue. An Ability To Provide Feedback And Analyze A Situation Again, if you are in a discussion with someone at work, its very unlikely the con versation will stop mid-way to have one person say, "John, I think the way you h andled that situation was great. You listened attentively and made me feel as th ough you were interested in what I had to say..." Role-playing allows participan ts to analyze a situation and provide feedback on what was done well and what co uld have been done better. Potentially a Way to Diagnosis Issue Sometimes a role-play can spark fresh insights about organizational issues. For example, a grievance role-play might spark discussion of deep problems in trust between management and workers. If this happens youre faced with a situation that can t be resolved in the session, but you should discuss what you learned with m anagement after the course. 3. Preparing For A Role Play Identify The Problem A clear problem or issue should always be identified so that the purpose of the role play is clear.. Role-plays are often used for manager/employee relations (s uch as giving feedback), employee/customer relations (such as handling complaint s), grievance issues within the workplace (such as how to respond when an employ ee presents a grievance), interview techniques (for example, learning how to lea d a behavioral event/competency interview), etc. Gather Data On Problems Collect all the information you can on the problems or issues youve identified an d interview managers and employees on things they would like to get out of the t raining. Have reports and memos been documented about these issues? For example, a role play about handling complaints will be much more meaningful if you understand the different types of complaints customer service reps get an d what kinds of challenges they face in responding to those complaints. Dont assume you can just sit two people down and say, "role play this situation"; youll need background information to prepare the case (more on this below) Identify Your Training Goals Now that you have the issues identified, how do you think role-playing will help employees deal with them? As in all training programs one should write down spe cific goals and refer to them after the training to see if theyve been reached.

Prepare The Case After you have the information you need, write a case you can use in the role-pl ay exercise. Give participants background information and a setting in which the training could occur; observation guides - what to look for during the role-pla y; and a discussion plan. Cases can often be quite simple, something like: Background Information: A single rep is answering customer service complaints over the phone. You are me ant to resolve the problem yourself, not refer them elsewhere. Role 1: You are playing the role of the customer service rep. Role 2: You are a frustrated first-time customer who is calling about the VCR they bough t and when they plug it in nothing happens. You have spent 20 minutes trying the obvious things but it still doesnt work (e.g. ensuring the outlet works, ensurin g the on button is pressed). Observation Guide Did the rep gain a clear understanding of the problem? Did the customer leave satisfied? Was the role play realistic? At times you may want to use a trainer to play the role of customer and have a m ore elaborate script. For example, if you want to training technical support rep s you might need fairly detailed scripts so that they can respond to a series of questions from the person playing the support rep. Role-Play And Discuss The final step is to get the role-play going and follow it with a discussion. En courage the people observing to take notes, and to write down specifically what was said that they want to comment on. It is not particularly helpful if an obse rver says "I thought you sounded defensive", on the other hand if they can say, "When you said Other customers dont have this problem, you sounded defensive" is it very helpful. You might consider videoing or tape recording the role plays so that you can rep lay critical parts for the benefits of the players and observers. 4. Role-Play Methods Role-playing is not just a one-on-one situation, there are several methods to ro le-playing you can use. Role Reversal The name says it all - this method involves playing each others part. For example : a manager and an employee will play one another to feel what its like to "be in that persons shoes". It also helps participants see how they might act different ly in a given situation. This method claims to build role flexibility, spontanei ty, as well as increase insight and sensitivity. Multiple Role-Playing Instead of conducting role-plays with just two people, multiple role-playing occ urs with groups of people. For example: given a performance interview role-play, a large group would be split into two - on sub-group playing the role of the ma nager and the other sub-group playing the role of the employee. After receiving instructions, the group is then split once again into two-person teams. The team s will conduct performance interviews for a given period of time. The group memb ers will then move back into the large group to discuss techniques and approache s. Role Rotation Sometimes companies will find it necessary to have similar skills in employees f rom different departments. For example, in a smaller company, it may be required that everyone have sales skills. In a role-play situation, the trainer could pr ovide a statement such as, "I think your service sounds like a great idea, but i ts a little expensive for me." Each person in the group will then take turns play ing the salesperson to try to get the customer to buy into the service. Afterwar ds, participants discuss what worked and what didnt work in the sales pitch. Monodrama One player plays both parts of the role-play where he or she moves from chair to chair conversing with him or her self. Monodrama claims to increase role flexib

ility and awareness of both sides of an issue. Soliloquy This is where the trainer may stop the role-play to interview one of the players to see how he or she feels about the conversation. Its called a soliloquy becaus e the participant is talking on his or her own. However this can be easily be ca lled "questions asked during role-play". Conclusion Role-playing is beneficial for approaching issues such as manager/employee relat ions etc. because it allows participants to take part in the conversation withou t committing to controversial ideas or thoughts. Role-playing seems to prepare p articipants for an upcoming conversation or meeting they may have felt uncomfort able having before the training - and allows them to receive feedback to improve their techniques for an actual meeting. Of course, some of these role-play meth ods I mentioned seem a little strange - mainly the "monodrama", but some people may find it more beneficial to role-play on their own. Role-playing is a form of training that builds skill, rather than just knowledge . Its a very useful technique and its worth your well to develop skill in facilita ting this kind of training.