Speaking Activity: Role-Plays for Negotiation & Complaining (ESL)

ESL Level: Intermediate+

Activity Focus: Speaking, negotiation, complaining, fluency

Time Needed: approximately 40 minutes

Number of Students: 2 or more

Materials Needed: copies of printout for each pair

Worksheet Download: negotiation-roleplays-esl.docx

Activity Description:

(Note: there is a preview below)

I did this role-playing activity with my students at the end of a unit on job interviews. As an option, you could teach some expressions for negotiation to target in the activity (e.g. It's not my fault!) before you begin.

First, students are put into pairs and they are asked to think of reasons for why people would find themselves in certain situations. Students can write down their reasons in point form.

In the second half of the speaking activity, students role-play two people who are in the aforementioned situations. They can use the reasons they wrote above in the role-plays.

My students enjoyed this activity.

Negotiation & Complaining: Role-play Worksheet Preview (ESL)

Role Plays for Negotiation & Complaining

Brainstorm: With a partner, write down reasons….

1)    why an employee might get fired.


2)    why a company might go bankrupt.


3)    why a candidate might not get hired for a job at an IT company after an interview.


4)    why a student might complain about his or her school.


5)    why a guest might ask for a refund after staying a night in a hotel.


Role-playing : With your partner, decide who will be StudentA and StudentB, and then role-play the below situations. Read only your role. When you and your partner are ready, you can begin.

#1 The Office

Student A: Your employee, StudentB, has not been performing very well recently at work. S/he has many problems (See the problems for #1 above). You have invited him/her to your office. You plan to fire him/her. Talk to him/her nicely, and let him/her know that s/he must leave at the end of the day.

Student B: Your boss has asked you to come into his/her office. You are not sure why. Recently, you have been very stressed out. You have a new baby at home, so you can't sleep. Also, your other workmates are bad at their jobs, which makes it hard for you to do your job.

#2 The Company

Student A: You are the owner of a toy company. You have been on vacation for 6 months, and now you are back. You have arranged a meeting with the company CEO. Talk with him/her. Ask him/her how the company is doing.

Student B: You are the CEO of a toy company. The company has been doing very poorly recently (see the problems for #2 above). The company is going to go bankrupt very soon. Now, the owner of the company wants to talk with you. Go to his/her office and talk with him/her.

#3 The Interview

Student A: You interviewed a candidate for a job at your IT company last week. She didn't get the job (see reasons for #3 above). Now, you are at your office, and she has come in to talk with you.

Student B:  You had an interview last week at an IT company. Although you were the perfect person for the job, you didn't get the job. You are very angry. You think that you didn't get the job because of discrimination (for example, because you are a woman, a foreigner, etc). You have decided to go to the company today. Talk with the hiring manager (the interviewer), and find out why you weren't hired!

#4 At School

Student A: You are the academic director of a school. A student has just knocked on your door. Invite him/her in, and talk with him/her.

Student B: You are a student. You are at school. You have had many problems with your school (see reasons for #4 above). You have decided to go to the academic director's office to complain. Knock on his door and ask to speak with him/her.

#5 The Hotel

Student A: You had a horrible stay at your hotel last night (see reasons for #5 above). Go downstairs and complain to the front desk clerk. You want a refund!

Student B: You are the front desk clerk at a 5-star hotel. Your hotel is amazing. Everyone loves it. You at the front desk now and a guest has come down to talk with you.

I hope your students find this role-play activity for negotiation enjoyable.


- Matthew Barton of Englishcurrent.com (Copyright)

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12 comments on “Speaking Activity: Role-Plays for Negotiation & Complaining (ESL)

  1. Judy HaLevi - Simply English - www.simply-english.co.il (Posted on 4-19-2015 at 14:20) Reply

    Great role plays. I have lots of fun in my class with them.

  2. Abdul Qayyum (Posted on 8-2-2015 at 21:32) Reply

    Really great !

    God bless you.

  3. Anonymous (Posted on 4-21-2016 at 02:38) Reply

    very helpfulthank you

  4. Anonymous (Posted on 5-4-2016 at 04:25) Reply

    That’s actually really nice case for practice.

  5. Anonymous (Posted on 5-8-2016 at 12:49) Reply

    thanks! this will be a good practice for my class.

  6. Esther (Posted on 7-19-2016 at 18:54) Reply

    Thank you! This is amazing!
    God bless! <3

  7. Anonymous (Posted on 3-9-2017 at 13:24) Reply

    very useful and clever

  8. Anonymous (Posted on 7-19-2017 at 09:04) Reply


  9. Yessy (Posted on 9-8-2017 at 22:31) Reply

    Thank for sharing this. I really appreciate it.

  10. Anonymous (Posted on 2-20-2018 at 10:45) Reply

    It was great! My students enjoyed their role-playing. Thanks

  11. Fabiana (Posted on 5-12-2021 at 04:09) Reply

    This is very helpful. Thank you!

  12. Anonymous (Posted on 5-30-2021 at 22:19) Reply

    Very, very cool little negotiation practice and great idea for a warmer that ties everything together. I love using this in class!

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