Appendix A: Role Plays

Appendix A: Role Plays


Appendix A: Role Plays


Bud versus Gloria[1]


1. Divide into groups of four. The instructor will read the background information aloud. This information is common knowledge to all three role players, and should be considered part of the role instructions. Group members should then determine who will play the roles of Cal Provost, Director of Engineering, Bud Hackworth, Lead Hardware Engineer, and Gloria Steinfeld, Lead Software Engineer. The remaining group member will be the observer. (10 minutes)

2. Role players read and study only your own role and the background information. (Role players should not read the other roles at this time). Make notes on what you think might occur during the upcoming meeting, and how you might respond to various contingencies. Observers briefly skim all three roles and review the Questions for Observation and Discussion on page 6. (10 minutes)

3. The instructor will announce the beginning of the meeting, called by Cal, which will include both Bud and Gloria. During the role play, role players should act as they personally would if they were the person in this situation. It is acceptable for the role players to embellish and extrapolate upon their scripted roles as they deem realistic and appropriate, given their personal needs, values, and behavioral styles, (though the basic facts and feelings in the roles cannot be changed). Observers should remain silent, avoid eye contact with the role players, and make written notes on the interaction using the questions on page 6 as a guide. If Cal decides to meet separately with Bud and/or Gloria, each should follow his instructions. Do not discuss the role play with others out in the hallway before its conclusion. Notify the instructor immediately upon ending the role play. (20-25 minutes available for meeting time)

4. Instructor collects and posts data from each group. Role players read each other's roles while the observer consolidates his/her notes. (5 minutes)

5. Team Analysis and Discussion: Answer the questions on page 6. (10-20 minutes)

6. General Class Discussion (10+ minutes)


Integrated Technologies, Inc. (a.k.a. IT) is a rapidly growing computer networking hardware and software company that has recently experienced uncertain times in the evolving, highly competitive climate that faces its industry. It was founded in a Boston basement 10 years ago by a highly successful entrepreneur and two of his college buddies. The company rapidly grew to over 4,000 employees, with offices worldwide. It went public in 1993, and its stock consistently climbed to an ultimate high of 55 in May of 1997. However, uncertainty about its ability to adapt to consolidation in its industry, coupled with a large stock sale by several top executives in June, caused the stock to drop to its current low of 33 (August 1997). Rumors have swirled about a possible hostile takeover, and many high quality employees have been recruited away by competitors in recent months.

This situation concerns a customer complaint to IT’s Director of Engineering, Cal Provost (age 46, 7 years with the company). Cal’s department is troubleshooting an unexpected glitch in a system recently sold to a new, and potentially lucrative customer. The customer is a private university which plans a massive expenditure on networking equipment over the next three years to upgrade its information systems to state-of-the-art capabilities. The university had considered buying from Crisco Systems, a much larger competitor to IT. However, they ultimately chose IT because Bob Masters (the university’s information systems manager), and one of the vice-presidents at IT had been fraternity buddies in college, and have a continuing personal relationship.

Unfortunately, the new system is neither working as promised, nor as expected. Bob Masters is concerned that the bugs will not be worked out in time for the beginning of the school year, which starts in three weeks. If the system does not perform flawlessly, he will be in for some serious trouble for not buying from Crisco Systems, which had presented a slightly lower bid along with a verbal guarantee of a successful system installation before September 1.

Late yesterday afternoon at the university technology center, Bob Masters walked in on a heated argument between Bud Hackworth, the Lead Hardware Engineer at IT, (age 54, 8 years with the company), and Gloria Steinfeld, IT’s Lead Software Engineer (age 25, 2 years with the company). Bud and Gloria were there to explore possible causes of the system problems. During the ensuing three-way interchange, there was considerable shouting and ill-will generated, which resulted in a telephone call from Masters to Cal Provost at about 5:30pm. Bud and Gloria were supposed to be working at the client’s site to solve problems, not create them.

The time is now 7:50am the following morning. Cal was unable to reach either Bud or Gloria by phone yesterday evening, but he left them both messages to be in his office at 8:00am sharp to discuss what happened at the client’s site and to review the status of the project.

Role for Bud Hackworth, Lead Hardware Engineer

Oh brother! “Xena” is at it again! Last night the warrior princess blew up and walked out when Bob Masters, info systems manager, asked us to stay late to identify the glitch in the system we were working on. Of course, I told him we would. We have to satisfy the customer, no matter what. But it seems that Gloria doesn’t see things that way. Her life is apparently more important. I just don’t understand that girl. I’ve tried to help her. In the beginning I even tried to mentor her. If she would only listen to me. She just doesn’t understand how important it is to a lot of our clients that girls look and act like girls. A little makeup, a nice dress. The more experienced managers in these companies don’t expect to see women working in slacks. And at least try to act feminine. Is that too much to ask? A girl just can’t be pushy in this business all the time and be a success.

I guess I don’t understand a lot of the younger employees. They’re in such a rush to get recognized and promoted. And they’re so aggressive in advocating their point of view. Don’t they understand that you have to pay your dues first? It takes years of grunt work and butt kissing to make it in this world. I’ve tried to help them, but they just don’t want to listen. It’s taken me years to get where I am, and I expect to be shown the respect that I’m entitled to. At least Cal and the other senior executives at IT recognize my value. We really do get along well--especially out on the golf course.

But “Xena”---I just don’t know. In my mind, Gloria could be “Xena--the Warrior Princess,” just like that character on the cable TV show that my grandchildren watch. She has tremendous potential, but she’s not there yet. That’s why I call her Rosebud to her face. She’s a diamond in the rough; a rose with the potential to bloom, but mostly just thorns right now. I’ve never told anyone that I think she has the potential of Xena--if she could only learn to play the game by the rules. In fact, I’ve never even called her Xena in public. I’ve heard she calls me names behind my back. Fuddy duddy, or old geezer, or something like that. I’m sick of seeing her catered to. This company has got to put her in her place, and make sure she pays her dues just like the rest of us had to. They really need to crack down on all these youngsters if this organization is going to continue to be successful.

When Cal called last night, I just let my answering machine get it. I don’t know what to say to him. I’ve tried to work with Gloria, but she has seemed to resent me ever since we had that big argument about a year ago. I don’t even remember what it was about. We’ve never had to work together again since then, until this project. Maybe I could just switch to another project. I’m tired of all the crap. Let somebody else try to straighten out these hot-shot kids. Cal will have to give me some pretty good reasons to keep trying to work with Gloria.

Role for Gloria Steinfeld, Lead Software Engineer

This job is getting to be a pain in the butt! I’ve had it with Bud Hackworth! FUD! I wonder if he knows that all of the younger engineers refer to him as “Fud”. We all think he’s a “wascally weasel.” He thinks he’s so cool because he’s buddies with the good old boys in this company. And, as he puts it, he has seniority! He is “employee number 48.” Big deal. That doesn’t give him the right to treat the rest of us like dirt. He’s always trying to boss us around--telling us what we “ought to” be doing. Some of those good old boys have no clue how capable and competent the young people--especially the young women--in this organization really are. Just because we don’t play the game their way doesn’t mean that we’re any less effective. I think the old geezers like Hackworth are threatened by us. And they should be! Give us the opportunity and we’ll work circles around those fuddy-duddies! I’ve personally saved three contracts in the last quarter alone, by identifying bugs and resolving technical problems. But I still don’t get the respect that I should as the best software engineer in this company.

I won’t put up with this garbage much longer. Last week at the trade show in Atlanta I was offered a job at Crisco Systems, with a higher salary and a large signing bonus to boot. I suppose I do have my stock options here at IT, but the stock has dropped 40% in the last few months. Who knows what could happen around here. I really would prefer to work in the Boston area where I can be near my boyfriend, Jeff. If I had to move out to California, I don’t know what would happen to our relationship. I know he loves his job at Lucent, and wouldn’t be willing to move. Maybe I can work things out to improve the situation here at IT.

I do know I’m sick of Fud! Who does he think he is, telling Bob Masters, the university info systems manager, at 5:00 last night that we would work until midnight if necessary to identify the system problem. Jeff and I had plans to go to the beach at 6:00 to celebrate our 5th anniversary together. Fud doesn’t tell me what to do! He’s not my boss. Hell, he didn’t even ask me before he told Master’s we’d stay late! We’ve still got three weeks to solve this problem. That’s plenty of time. There was no need to work an extra seven hours last night—especially since we were already exhausted. So I told him to stuff it, right in front of Masters, and I walked out! I guess Masters must have really been P.O.ed, because he called Cal right away. So now I have to be in early to meet with Cal and Fud and explain what’s going on.

If Fud wasn’t such good buddies with Cal, I’d tell both of them a thing or two. I’m sick of Fud constantly criticizing my appearance--and calling me Rosebud every chance he gets! What a demeaning nickname! After that first big run-in we had a year ago, Cal had the good sense to always assign us to separate projects. Imagine, Fud trying to tell me that I should get my hair done, wear makeup and “a nice dress” when we meet with clients, because I make him and the company look bad! They don’t care if I wear slacks, they care about what I know, and that I can solve their software problems! I wouldn’t let Fud boss me around then, and I won’t let him get away with it now. I don’t see why we have to work together on this one anyway. We can’t stand each other, so that doesn’t make work any easier. Especially when the problems are so complicated and unpredictable. I just can’t concentrate when I have to worry about what stupid remark Fud might make to me or the client next. When I can work uninterruped and unhassled, I can get problems solved easily. But I can’t work when Fud is breathing down my neck! I really want out of this project ASAP! Cal will have to give me some pretty good reasons to keep trying to work with Bud Hackworth. The Crisco offer is looking better all the time.

Role for Cal Provost, Director of Engineering

Boy, have I ever got a serious problem here! When Bob Masters called yesterday, he demanded a guarantee that the system would be up and running within two weeks, in time for adequate testing by his people before the fall semester begins. He said that if he didn’t get this guarantee, he would cancel our agreement, take the lower bid from Crisco Systems, and delay system implementation until the spring semester. I promised him I would call him back before noon today to explain how we are going to meet his timetable.

There is no way I can absolutely guarantee that the system will perform glitch free after two weeks, even if I can get Bud and Gloria to cooperate with each other. And that cooperation is probably my biggest challenge. Those two have just never gotten along, and I can’t understand why not. Bud is a great guy--always clowning around and real friendly to everybody. He’s lots of fun--especially on the golf course with me and the other executives. I suppose he is a little old-fashioned, but he really knows his stuff. In fact, he’s the only hardware engineer I have who could work on this project effectively. He’s got engineering experience at IBM, Digital, and Wang, and he knows all of our equipment--as well as all of the university’s-- inside and out. No one else in the department has either his level of expertise or his creative problem solving ability. If I could only get him to show a bit more patience with others--especially the younger employees. They occasionally complain to me that he’s “hard to work with.”

And Gloria is a fine girl, though perhaps a bit of a feminist. She sure knows what she thinks, and she’s not afraid to say it. But she is my brightest and most creative software engineer. She has personally resolved serious technical glitches on three separate contracts for me this past quarter. Her work has not only saved the company tens of thousands of dollars in revenue, but helped to protect and enhance my personal credibility with customers. And on the university project, she single-handedly wrote most of the crucial code for the equipment that we are installing. We’ve been so overworked, there was no time to prepare documentation. She’s the only one who understands the new programs. If she doesn’t work this out with Bud, I’m sunk. It would take at least a month for another software engineer to get up to speed on this project, and I don’t have anyone near as good as Gloria anyway. With a month’s delay, the contract would probably be lost. We can’t afford to lose this one. When the deal was announced last month, the business press talked it up heavily, and our stock went up 2 points. The loss of this contract could really shake confidence in IT’s ability to continue to compete!

I’ve got to figure out a way to get Bud and Gloria working together as a team, and fast! They have to finish this project glitch-free and on schedule. And it really would be nice if they could learn to be civil to each other in the process. Since I haven’t had a chance to discuss this with either one of them, I’ll bring them both into this meeting together to let them know what I want to talk about, and to see how they react. If it seems appropriate to meet with them individually after that, I will exercise that option. If necessary, I can meet with them jointly again after these individual meetings. In the end, I have to have a plan for dealing constructively with this situation that I can report back to Bob Masters by phone before noon. And I have to be sure that Bud and Gloria are going to work together professionally and productively!

Questions for Observation and Discussion

  1. How did Cal open the meeting with Bud and Gloria? What did he tell them about the problem he was facing?
  1. Did Cal choose to meet separately with Bud and Gloria? What were the effects of the decision to meet separately or remain together?
  1. What information or issues were revealed by each of the characters involved? What was the effect of this information on perceptions, attitudes, communication, and problem-solving?
  1. What behaviors on the part of Cal, Bud, and/or Gloria promoted openness, honesty, and collaborative problem solving behavior?
  1. What behaviors on the part of Cal, Bud, and/or Gloria promoted defensiveness and/or hindered constructive problem solving behavior? Did Cal seem to side with either Bud or Gloria? If so, what was the effect of this?
  1. What is the probability of Gloria quitting to accept Crisco’s job offer? Why? This question is to be answered by Gloria:

low (<25%) moderate (25-75%)high (>75%)