Workplace Negotiation Role-plays & Discussion Expressions (ESL)

ESL Level: Upper-Intermediate and above
Class Time: 40-60 mins
Language Focus: Speaking, expressions for making a request, agreeing and disagreeing (negotiation)
Description: students study expressions for discussing issues at work and then practice using them in role-play situations.
Material Download: workers-rights-expressions-roleplays.docx

Activity Execution

First, go over the expressions in the below handout for raising an issue with a coworker or superior. Explain the expressions when required.

Secondly, let your student role-play some of the role-play situations (scroll down). Please read them beforehand and choose appropriate role-plays.

Possible Extension: Instead of doing the second point above, get your students, in pairs, to brainstorm an issue that can arise at the workplace then have them write a dialogue for the situation that includes the expressions below. When ready, have them role-play the situation to others or for the entire class. The other students who are listening can eavesdrop and complete an eavesdropping worksheet.

Handout Preview

Expressions for Making, Accepting, and Refusing a Request

Introducing an Issue

  • There's something I'd like to discuss.
  • (Indirect) I'm afraid there is a slight problem with [my schedule].
  • (Direct) I want to complain about [my schedule].

Making Requests

  • I was wondering if it would be possible to…….
  • I believe I'm entitled to/I deserve…… (a pay raise/a day off)

Language to use to show understanding/agreement on a point:

  • That's a fair suggestion.
  • So what you're saying is that you...
  • In other words, you feel that...
  • You have a strong point there.

Language to use for objection on a point or offer:

  • I understand where you're coming from; however,...
  • I'm prepared to compromise, but...
  • The way I look at it...
  • If you look at it from my point of view, ...
  • That's not exactly how I look at it.
  • I'd have to disagree with you there.
  • I'm afraid that doesn't work for me.

Rejecting Requests

  • I'm afraid that's just not possible at the moment.
  • That's out of the question. (strong)
  • I'm afraid I have to turn your request down.

Sample Workers' Rights Role-plays

Role-play #1

EmployeeYou have recently been hired as a security guard. When you were hired, you were offered an hourly wage of $10. You accepted this because you needed the money. However, recently you have learned that this is below the minimum wage. Discuss this issue with your boss.


BossYou run a security company. An employee of yours has asked to speak with you. The employee is a newcomer to Canada; you hired him/her recently even though s/he was inexperienced.

Role-play #2

EmployeeYou work at a bank. When you started working there, you worked the standard 40 hours a week. However, the boss has been slowly giving you more and more work. As a result, you've been doing more and more overtime.

There are two issues: there overtime is unpaid and you have too much work. Discuss the issue with your boss.

BossYou are a manager at a bank. Business is difficult nowadays because of the weak economy. Everyone needs to work hard in order for the bank to succeed.

Today, one of your employees asks to speak with you about an issue.

Role-Play #3

EmployeeYou work at a shoe store. You need to go back to the country you lived in before Canada during Christmas time for personal reasons. Make this request to your boss.
BossYou manage a shoe store. Two of your employees have asked for a vacation time during the Christmas season. You rejected their request because Christmas is your busiest season. Now, another one of your employees would like to speak with you.

Situation #1 — Easier


You are the owner of ABC Shoe Store. You pay your new employees $11 an hour, which is the minimum wage.

Today, one of your employees asks to speak to you.


You work at ABC Shoe Store. When you were hired, you were given the minimum wage of $11 an hour. Six months have passed since you were hired. You believe you deserve a raise (think of reasons why you deserve one).

When ready, make this request (politely) to your boss.

Situation #2 - Medium


You are the owner of a small company. Your company has 6 employees.

You have recently hired a new receptionist. Your company is very busy; it's important that this receptionist is in the reception area to greet clients and answer the phone at all times.

Today, s/he asks to speak with you.


You were hired as a receptionist at a small company last week. Every day, you work from 8 to 3 pm. Your boss is very demanding, and s/he wants you to be by the telephone at the reception area all day without breaks.

You have recently learned that workers are entitled to a 30-minute break for every 5 hours of work in Canada.

Talk to your boss and try to convince him/her to let you have a break/breaks every day.

Situation #3 — Advanced

Employer - man

You run a small company. You have six employees. Five of them are men, and one is a woman. The female employee is an accountant.

Today, the accountant asks to speak with you.

Employee - woman

You are an accountant in a small company. Whenever there is a meeting, your boss, a man, asks you to make coffee for everyone. Also, twice a week, he asks you to water the plants in the office.

These duties are not part of your job description as an accountant. However, you are the only woman in the office, so you believe that is why your boss asks you to do this. Talk to your boss today about this issue.

Best of luck in your ESL classes.

Related: Dozens of other work-related role-plays on Englishcurrent here

- Matthew Barton / Creator of

English Current recommends Grammarly as a learning tool to reduce English mistakes. If you found this page helpful, consider a donation to our hosting bill to show your support!

9 comments on “Workplace Negotiation Role-plays & Discussion Expressions (ESL)

  1. Susan Livsey (Posted on 2-21-2016 at 21:11) Reply

    Great resource. Thanks so much

  2. Denise (Posted on 3-24-2017 at 08:37) Reply

    Fantastic. Really helpful. Thank you very much!
    My Best,

  3. Lano (Posted on 12-24-2017 at 01:34) Reply

    Thanks so much. This kind of material really is a big help and support to my work.
    All the best,

  4. Mumta (Posted on 2-11-2019 at 08:29) Reply

    Thank you, are there more?

  5. noone (Posted on 5-1-2020 at 16:08) Reply

    here is a lot of information

  6. Fabiana (Posted on 9-29-2020 at 03:06) Reply

    Thanks for this. It will really come in handy!

  7. Richard Cumpston Jones (Posted on 11-21-2020 at 02:06) Reply

    Very useful. This will be used for a Business Negotiation role play activity for post grads. Grateful for the different levels in language. Many thanks for sharing

  8. Sean (Posted on 10-5-2021 at 22:50) Reply

    Thank you, Matthew. I found out I had to change my entire lesson plan at the last moment. This really saved my bacon!

  9. Shailaja (Posted on 11-16-2021 at 03:11) Reply

    A good resource for teachers like me..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.