A Lesson from the Little LeagueIt's a classic challenge: How to "keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you." Rudyard Kipling wasn't thinking of baseball umpires when he wrote "If," but the frustrating situations he enumerates do bear a resemblance to what umpires, and anyone else in an arbitrator's role, has to be prepared to cope with.
I recently came upon a set of online tips that Little League Baseball provides its umpires that seem apt for people in other organizations, including businesses, where knowing how to manage conflict is an essential skill.
The Little League offers these words to the wise:
Umpires must walk a fine line between keeping the game under control and not exacerbating situations with over-aggressive or arrogant actions. Although every situation is unique, umpires on the field should follow the guidelines below:
- Umpires should remain calm, professional, tactful, firm, in control, fair and impartial. They cannot be perceived as overly aggressive, confrontational, hot-headed, short-tempered, timid, intimidated or nervous. Umpires must never display impatience or a condescending attitude.
- Umpires are expected to understand their role as a steady, calming influence on the game. Umpires must be able to sort out complex and important situations and cannot be hesitant to make unpopular decisions.
- Umpires should never ignore occurrences on the field that require their attention to maintain order and control. But when difficult situations arise, it is essential that umpires stay above the emotional fray and never lower themselves to the excitable level of a particular player, manager, or coach. Umpires must be clear and decisive, while not overly aggressive or overbearing. They are expected to become more assertive if the situation calls for such, but must control their temper at all times. All in all, umpires must calm volatile situations while keeping control and managing them.
- Umpires should listen to managers if discussions are reasonable and non-emotional. Umpires are to be firm and authoritative in conversations with managers but should never initiate an argument. Umpires must not create unnecessary friction by ignoring reasonable inquiries. At the same time, umpires must command respect during difficult situations and never tolerate personal abuse.
- Umpires must avoid sarcastic remarks and profanity and not insist on the last word.
- Umpires cannot look for trouble or invite arguments. If a situation can defuse itself, umpires must allow it to happen. Umpires must not be perceived as having escalated a situation.