publisher colophon


The college baseball coach says he is merely interested in the umpire's point of view when he questions a call. His intention is not to belittle or berate. He wants to listen and learn. "I don't want to belittle them or disrespect them in any way so after the game I can't look at them man to man and feel like I have integrity in the way I treat them as a person."

While seeking to better understand the umpire's rationale for his call, the coach, with eight years of experience, may be using stage four of the Social Orders of Consciousness as proposed by psychologist Robert Kegan.1 Kegan almost certainly did not have baseball coaches and umpires in mind when he developed his framework for explaining and exploring conflict. While research indicates that this framework, which is based on how people make meaning in their lives, is applicable to the workplace, its presence has yet to be examined on the baseball field.

literature review

Conflict, whether in the boardroom or on the sports field, is inevitable. Wherever more than one person is involved, conflict will likely arise. Additionally, add a competitive environment and conflict flourishes. The management of the conflict within an organization, however, determines whether it is a trigger for growth and development or if it becomes destructive and unproductive.2 Not addressing conflict will most likely negatively impact personnel, as well as organizational efficiency. The role of leaders within organizations also impacts the outcome of conflict when there is a gap between their worldviews and values with their behaviors and leadership style.3

Most conflict management strategies include a list of practices to improve [End Page 133] communication and build camaraderie and techniques to mitigate negative effects.4 A better approach, however, may be seeing conflict as a developmental construct. In other words, how does the development of the person involved in the conflict impact the outcome? This paper will explore conflict from an unusual angle by examining interviews with coaches about conflict with umpires on the baseball field as seen through the lens of Robert Kegan's theory of Social Orders of Consciousness.

A review of the literature reveals that most research on conflict occurs within the context of the workplace.5 Even though sports is a billion-dollar industry and is the focus of wide attention within our culture, little research on conflict in this competitive environment, especially that using Kegan's social orders, exists. Early theories that focused on the relationship between conflict and team outcomes typically promoted a negative relationship. By contrast, conflict could be healthy in an organization when approached with the correct intention and when embedded in a culture that embraces conflict.6

How conflict is managed in the workplace and on the ball diamond impacts outcomes on the individual and organizational level. Conflict management researchers, such as Jeannie Trudel and Thomas Reio, Jr. found a connection between conflict management styles and workplace incivility.7 Susan Meyer suggests that poorly managed organizational conflict negatively impacts employee learning and job performance.8 Conflict may spiral as a result of responses to uncivil behavior, with an escalation of those behaviors occurring.9 Unresolved conflict may lead to resistance with a decrease of job satisfaction and organizational loyalty.10 Relationship conflict negatively affects team outcomes, sparking emotionality among team members and distracting them from their responsibilities.11 Team members impacted negatively by conflict may also be less open to others' suggestions and ideas.12

However, some conflict in the workplace can result in positive outcomes in group situations resulting in a better understanding of individual opinions and creative options with improved organizational performance.13 Researchers Lindred Greer, Karen Jehn, and Elizabeth Mannix examined the relationships between task, relationship, and process conflict over time.14 They speculated that when team members resolve conflict early during their time together, conflict will less likely perpetuate itself and lead to other forms of conflict. They found that process conflict, but not task or relationship conflict, occurring early in a team's interactions led to higher levels of all other conflict types for the remaining interactions of the team.

Leadership, especially transformational leaders, can encourage conflict resolution. Leaders who encourage a commitment to change, and provide inspiration and motivation will create an environment of cooperative conflict resolution [End Page 134] among team members.15 In addition, leaders can influence people to move beyond their own interests to attain common goals, resulting in positive problem resolution.16

Many organizations have incorporated conflict management techniques into their culture to mitigate the negative impact of conflict. Mediation programs have been included in training to help employees and members manage conflict better and improve communication skills. While the effectiveness of these strategies is continually explored, perhaps they are incomplete. People's response to conflict is based on their view or perception of the conflict and is impacted by their developmental ability to handle that conflict. In this regard, we will explore conflict by viewing it through Kegan's theory of Social Orders of Consciousness.

social orders of consciousness

The Social Orders of Consciousness as proposed by Robert Kegan describes the development of individuals as life-long and is constructivistic, being determined by their worldviews or how they make meaning in their lives. Different than life tasks, Kegan's framework describes a progression of how individuals construct meaning, and interpret and understand their experiences, and is known as "orders of the mind".17 These orders are based on a subject-object relationship. When experiences are subject, individuals are embedded in those experiences, are controlled by them, and may have behavioral, cognitive and emotional responses, which are automatically triggered. Conversely, when experiences are object, individuals have the ability to step back, reflect on them, be responsible for, control, assimilate them and thoughtfully respond to them.18 As individuals progress in their constructive development, the way they interact with life fundamentally changes because of their increased abilities to epistemologically "know" life differently. With each developmental stage, there is a more complex way of understanding, resulting in increased capacities to handle affective, cognitive and social elements intentionally.19 Development into progressive orders is typically triggered by mismatch between the demands on an individual and the capacity to respond to those challenges.20

The Social Orders of Consciousness (SOC) is a framework of five orders (0–5) and include intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions (see Table 1). The first order envelops an individual's infancy and childhood, as that individual begins discovering his or her environment. As individuals progress into higher orders as a result of navigating life challenges, the earlier orders are incorporated into a change in the subject-object relationship where responses [End Page 135] become more flexible, open, complex and tolerant of differences.21 Consequently, each higher order is marked by a capacity to view more objectively life challenges that were formerly subject.

conflict through a social orders of consciousness lens

This theory has been applied to several settings, including counseling,22 business,23 and education.24 Robert Kegan and fellow psychologist Lisa Lahey applied the constructive developmental approach to the work setting by examining how language impacts relationships and, most specifically, conflicts.25 Conflict management, seen from the perspective of a constructive development approach, may be viewed and handled differently. As individuals progress into higher orders, there will be a shift in capacities to manage conflict more effectively. With each developmental stage, there will be an increase in understanding about how individuals see the world and consequently, act in it. Conflict then will likely move from negative to positive, from win/lose to more complex solutions. These views of conflict, according to Kegan and Lahey, are reflected in and may be impacted by the language that is used that contribute to entropy (breaking down) of relationships or negentropy (development) of relationships.26

A more complex understanding of conflict actually calls for a "deconstructive" approach by breaking down beliefs and assumptions that individuals tend to hold. Deconstruction is reflected by several strategies:

Identifying where an individual's real commitments lie and express what we stand for and are motivated to work for; taking responsibility for how we contribute toward or detract from reaching commitments and learn from problems and mistakes, revealing our competing commitments and how we may be thwarting the acquisition of goals, identifying our assumptions which become truth for us but may be distorted, limited and differing from those of others, showing ongoing positive regard for others with direct and specific positive feedback, creating public agreements about how to handle conflict in order to build organizational integrity, and providing deconstructive feedback to others while seeing that there may be differing perspectives and multiple truths in complex situations.27

This deconstructive approach challenges individuals to explore their assumptions, turning them from subject into object and revealing a more open [End Page 136]

Table 1. Kegan's Social Orders of Consciousness (Adapted from Barbuto & Millard, 2010)
Click for larger view
View full resolution
Table 1.

Kegan's Social Orders of Consciousness

(Adapted from Barbuto & Millard, 2010)

[End Page 137] and complex understanding of conflict. In challenging the assumption that our perspective is reality, we open ourselves to the possibilities that the views of another may also hold some truth. Kegan and Lahey said a shift from the assumption of conflict as destructive to one that is constructive opens the possibilities of these situations becoming opportunities to learn and grow, producing improved outcomes and relationships. As individuals in conflict come together using the language described above, conflict becomes not something to avoid or attack, but to work through in order to achieve transformation.28

soc and coach/manager on-field conversations with umpires

History often has stereotyped coach-umpire encounters as experiences that are subject, or destructive. Indeed, some baseball coaches and managers such as John McGraw, Frankie Frisch, Earl Weaver, and Bobby Cox have been mythologized for their on-field antics and angry outbursts toward umpires. McGraw, who still holds the single season record for ejections (13 in 1905), was known for his ferocity toward umpires, while Frisch "concentrated on baiting umpires. … To McGraw umpires were the enemy; to Frisch, they were only targets," baseball historian and journalist Leonard Koppett wrote.29 Bobby Cox, who holds the career record for ejections (132), opened his Hall of Fame induction speech in 2014 by admitting that he was most known as "that guy from Atlanta who gets thrown out [of games] all the time."30

Since the earliest years of professional baseball, fans have supported and even glorified derision to umpires. In 1886, a poem, titled, "Mother, May I Slug the Umpire" became popular, and baseball historian Harold Seymour gave a somber appraisal of the umpire's role: "While there is much to boo him for, there is little or no reason to cheer him."31 More than 100 years after "Mother, May I Slug the Umpire" was printed, the Internet is replete with videos of hostile encounters between Major League managers and umpires. Major League managers also have been known to confront an umpire, not so much to dispute a call, but to vent frustrations and, in doing so, to set themselves up to be thrown out of a game. But the manager's ultimate goal in taking such actions is to rile the fans or energize his players. Either way, the umpire takes the brunt of these verbal exchanges.

"Such is sometimes the role of the umpire: to play the part of the helpless punching bag, the source upon which a manager's suppressed frustrations are overwhelmingly thrust," baseball writer Zach Meisel mused. "Whether that means the umpire must serve as a psychologist or therapist, it all comes with the territory."32

Is destructive behavior, or what Kegan might classify as stage 2 behavior, [End Page 138] at the heart of most on-field disputes between umpires and managers or coaches? Can stage 4 and 5 behaviors or toleration and acceptance of differences play any role in such disputes? Answering these questions became the crux of the study.

Baseball coaches may not see themselves as tolerant during disputes, but they are not just reacting to a situation when exchanging words with an umpire. They must determine how to question an umpire's judgment without alienating themselves from future discussions with the ump and perhaps jeopardize their teams' chances of getting favorable calls later in games. In other words, how does a coach avoid making his discussions with the umpire subject, in which contention escalates as both parties allow the situation to trigger negative behavior and emotional responses? Under the lens of Kegan's Social Orders of Consciousness, would coaches who are older and with more experience be less likely to allow situations to control them (i.e. subject) and more likely to strive to keep encounters object with umpires?

To address those questions, the authors propose five hypotheses.

  • Hypothesis #1: Coaches with more experience will be more likely to engage in stage 4 or 5 behaviors.

  • Hypothesis #2: Coaches with less experience will be more likely to engage in stage 2 or 3 behaviors.

  • Hypothesis #3: College coaches will be more likely than high school coaches to engage in stage 4 or 5 behaviors.

  • Hypothesis #4: High school coaches will be more likely than college coaches to engage in stage 2 or 3 behaviors.

  • Hypothesis #5: Coaches will engage in behaviors reflective of different stages to try to achieve different objectives.


Two of the investigators interviewed twelve coaches (six high school and six college). The investigators called or e-mailed college and high school coaches in the Omaha, Nebraska, area. The investigators either knew the coaches through previous research or located them by contacting high schools and colleges in the area. The investigators asked the coaches four open-ended questions about their relationships with umpires and the strategies they use when disputing calls. The investigators used follow-up questions to allow the coaches to expand on or clarify their answers. All methods and materials used [End Page 139] in this study were approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Nebraska.

The interviews were recorded and transcribed. Two investigators analyzed the transcripts and coded them for responses that reflected communication behaviors that could be categorized in one of four stages of Robert Kegan's social orders of consciousness (Kegan, 1982; see Literature Review). They are:

  • Stage 1—Infantile and Child-like. The earliest development of understanding and reasoning during childhood.

  • Stage 2—Instrumental. Issues seen as black and white, right or wrong, defensive stance taken.

  • Stage 3—Socialized. Perspective of others may be considered, willingness to subordinate needs, but issues still right or wrong, black or white. Stage 4—Self-authoring. Open to engagement with others, empathetic, self-reflective, conflict can lead to greater understanding and better outcomes.

  • Stage 5—Self-transforming. Conflict can be positive, understanding of the limits of one's view, willingness to re-examine and re-evaluate, multiple views are held.

Each response from the coach to a specific question served as the coding unit. The investigator's used Cohen's Kappa to assess intercoder reliability. That value was 0.80.


All baseball coaches in this study said they see confrontation with umpires as an important part of their job. How they approach the conflict depends little on the number of years they have or had coached. All coaches, regardless of length of careers, used behaviors characteristic of Kegan's stages 4 (self-authoring) or 5 (self-transforming) in addressing conflicts with umpires. All but three coaches used stage 5 approaches and all but one used stage 4. One of the coaches with the least experience exhibited stage 5 behavior when he said he ensures that any on-field encounters with umpires remain "positive" and respectful. "So if I see them at a coffee shop," the coach explained, "I say hello and ask them how they're doing. Hopefully, we can have a relationship so we can talk like an acquaintance or friend."

A coach with more than 20 years of experience expressed a similar sentiment. That coach said that although he may disagree with an umpire's call, it shouldn't deter him from developing a positive relationship with the umpire. "The umpire missed it," he said. "Let's move on. That's part of the game. You [End Page 140] gobble that up. If you don't, that stops your development; that stops your progression and makes you less than a champion." Thus, in addressing Hypothesis #1, experience does not have to be a factor in the use of stage 4 or 5 behaviors.

In addressing Hypothesis #2, the analysis of coaches' transcribed interviews show that all but one coach used behaviors characteristic of stage 3 in their interactions with umpires. One coach's lament that umpires, sometimes bad ones, control the destiny of his team during a game typifies the stage 3 perspective of other coaches. "Wins and losses are how coaches are hired and fired. I don't think they [umpires] understand that fully. … how much time [coaches] put in recruiting, fund-raising, scheduling."

Another coach takes a dimmer view of umpires in describing his stage 2 approach to disputing a call. "I know how to argue and make my case with umpires, and there will be discussions," he said. "I really don't yell or anything like that, but I will go up to them and lots of times I'll let them talk themselves into a corner." This coach "won't give them the time of day [when umpires arrive for a game]. … because I know later on I will be having a heart to heart with them during the game." One of the coaches who often used stage 2 behaviors describes a typical transaction he has with umpires. "I come out and ask him what he had and how did he come to that," the coach said. "He's all automatically defending himself and barking. I'm talking and he interrupted me. I did it one more time and he interrupted. I go, 'Shut up. This is a conversation. Conversation means two people. Are you going to let me talk?' That's what I yelled to him. I told him to shut up. This is a conversation."

However, just six coaches used behaviors characteristic of stage 2. Those coaches averaged 10.67 years of experience, while those who did not use stage 2-like behaviors averaged 12.83 years of experience. In addition, the three coaches with the most experience (30, 21 and 15 years) did not engage in stage 2-like behaviors. However, the two coaches with the least experience (eight years each) also did not engage in stage 2 behaviors. The results do not support Hypothesis #2. A coach's experience has little, if anything, to do with whether he engages in stage 2-like behaviors, and likewise for stage 3 behaviors.

Answering Hypothesis #3 and Hypothesis #4 is more straightforward. As previously noted, all coaches used behaviors characteristic of Kegan's stages 4 or 5, so level (high school vs. college) of coaching does not apply. Likewise, all but one coach used stage 3-like behaviors, and of the six who used stage 2-like behaviors, three coached high school and three coached college. In fact, the coach who used stage 2 behaviors most frequently was at the college level.

Other coaches engaged in stage 2 behaviors sparingly, but did so to achieve specific objectives, evidence that coaches do use different stages to achieve [End Page 141] particular ends. That evidence supports Hypothesis #5. Those coaches who did use stage 2 behaviors did so when they felt the umpires weren't "hustling" to make the right call or didn't consult with other umpires in making a close call. Said one college coach, "Umpires get paid a certain amount of money, and it comes out of my budget. [Umpires] need to get [their] ass over [where the play takes place], because if it ends up being a close play, and I'm not sure the umpire has the angle, I'm calling him out. Not that he got the call right or wrong, but why didn't he get his ass over there in position."

Other coaches used stage 2 behaviors as a ploy to get their players fired up. A high school coach says he defies umpires as a means to an end. He says he will engage in a heated discussion to intensify his players.

"I think any coach will tell you they'll get kicked out of a game for that purpose," the coach continued. "[Arkansas Razorbacks head baseball coach] Dave van Horn gets kicked out for no reason, just to get the team fired up. He does that seven or eight times a year. He's told me that he'll go out and get all over a guy for minimal reasons and do it to get the team fired up."

The coach recalled that the last time he was kicked out of a game, his players "were screaming. They were getting off the bench. They were fired up. They played with a purpose."

Some coaches think that "showing up" the umpire or getting kicked out of a game isn't necessarily destructive or self-centered. Instead, they view such behaviors as an attempt to subordinate their feelings or needs to that of their players and to adopt their perspective. Those reasons are emblematic of Kegan's stage 3 and demonstrate that coaches will use different stages to achieve the same end. One of those coaches, who admitted to have been thrown out of games three times in his career, said the last time he was tossed from a game, "it kind of rallied the kids a little bit. We were down quite a bit and the kids liked it. It showed them I have their back. That's what you do it for."

However, coaches most often use behaviors that are characteristic of stage 3 to understand the umpire's perspective. For example, a high school coach with fifteen years of experience says he knows when to stop disputing an umpire's calls. "When an umpire gets a lot of questions, he's going to start zoning you out and not listening," said the coach. "So you have no influence at all."

A junior college coach says it's necessary to understand an umpire's approach to officiating a game. Although the coach may be arguing from his perspective, the coach must also calculate the umpire's reaction. The coach says that often after he disputes a call, he will say to the umpire, "'Just think about that for a second, what you just called. It wasn't even close. Just think [End Page 142] about it.' I walk away. I just put the seeds in their head. … I just put it in their mind that they're human."

Other coaches display stage 4 perspectives by taking an umpire's perspective a step further. These coaches temper their disputes by empathizing with the umpire and by reflecting on their role in the game. Those coaches admit they do so hopefully to swing the ump's favor their way and to get the close calls.

"They (umpires) are doing their jobs as we are," said a high school coach with fifteen years of experience. "They're human so they're not going to be 100 percent correct just like we're not 100 percent correct. We get second guessed just like they do. I treat them with mutual respect. I believe that's a two-way street. If we're not treating them with respect, we're not going to be treated with respect as a team."

Coaches who adopt that stage 4 outlook are more likely to be open to the umpire's response and accepting of the umpire's decision than those who do not adopt this outlook. A college coach with eight years of experience says it's important to hear umpires' explanations of their decisions. "I want to know why they made the call the way they did. If I completely disagree with a call then I'm not afraid to say I disagree with that call. I feel I can be direct and honest with them. But I don't want to belittle them or disrespect them in any way so after the game I can't look at them man to man and feel like I have integrity in the way I treat them as a person."

That college coach and other coaches in this study believe being open to an umpire's explanation and trying to understand the umpire's point of view, an approach that is characteristic of stage 4, can benefit their teams in the long term by getting favorable calls on subsequent close plays. A college coach said that even if he continues to disagree with an umpire's call, he maintains respect for him. "I feel like that I've maybe helped another team down the road or I'm not going to get the short end of that call because I never showed disrespect for the guy."

Some coaches contend that building relationships with umpires—greeting them on arrival at the ball field, calling them by their first names, making sure they have water on hot days, and even exchanging pleasantries—is the first step in establishing a mutual understanding that both want what's best for the players.

"If they're out getting ready, I will stop out," a high school coach said. "They'll usually park in the back and I will stop out and say 'hi'. I'll let them know who's playing, if JV is playing first or if varsity is playing first. Just see how things are going. Usually that will spark some conversation. How's the team? Back and forth."

Several coaches who used stage 4 and 5 behaviors saw their disagreements [End Page 143] with umpires as opportunities to teach themselves and their players how to adjust to situations and to re-evaluate their approach to the game.

"I tell my players, 'If the guy's calling the ball six inches outside, make an adjustment. Go up there and swing at it. Don't come back and tell me the ball was six inches outside. I don't care what the umpire calls it. Get closer to the plate, make an adjustment and you'll get rewarded for it'," said a coach with more than twenty years of experience at the college and professional levels. "You're doing right by your players when you don't let them make excuses that the ump is making bad calls."

Seeing conflict as an instrument for personal and professional growth was a common theme among coaches who most often engaged in stage 5-like behaviors. These coaches understood the limitations of their views and the importance of treating umpires and all others with respect.

Said one college coach, "I think I was prone to argue more and be a little bit more aggressive in my approach in the past. I realized that if I wanted that character trait to change in my personal life, I was going to have to change in my career. I was trying to change that in my personal life, but I have to take that approach in every aspect of my life. I have to be more of a responder and think of the situation and react in a more calm manner. At least I hope I've tried to."

A parochial high school coach with nine years of experience says he navigates multiple viewpoints (a stage-5 behavior) with some umpires, who also happen to be his friends. The coach doesn't use those friendships to ply favorable calls from the umpires. He uses them to maintain a degree of civility during the game.

"They're my friend outside of coaching," the coach said, "but if there's a question I have baseball related, they'll be honest with me. There's a mutual respect out on the field. We know it's baseball. If I have a concern, they have a concern. It's a job; it's not being friends. If I'm showing concern for an umpire, I'm not going to get tossed. They're a little more straightforward with me."

For that coach and others who engaged in stage 5 behaviors, and unlike coaches who use stage 2 behaviors, getting thrown out of a game is antithetical to what a coach should be teaching his players. As one coach explains, "For me, I'm going to try to be patient and allow [umpires] to make mistakes without overreacting. One of the reasons I do that is that is the way we should treat each other. That's just my perspective on how we should treat each other.… When things don't work out the way we want them to or we feel we've been mistreated, slighted in some fashion, it's not OK to lose your self-control."

These examples of differing outlooks and strategies that coaches use when conflict arises with umpires provides strong evidence in support of Hypothesis [End Page 144] #5. Coaches methodically use different behaviors that can be catalogued under one of Kegan's 4 stages to attempt to derive desired outcomes.


Kegan's Social Orders of Consciousness provides a fresh perspective on the on-field meetings and disputes between managers and umpires. Six of the twelve high school and college coaches interviewed in this study used stage 2 behaviors, which would be associated with the tirades and sometimes belligerent behavior by coaches contesting a call. But five of those six used stage 2 behaviors much less frequently than they used stage 4 and 5 approaches; and all coaches used stage 4 and 5 behaviors, some more than others.

These results raise three points:

They provide evidence to debunk myths about the simmering tension between umpires and coaches or managers on the field;

They show that managers will use different stages of behavior for strategic purposes; and

They provide some evidence to support Leonard Koppett's assertion that managers learn their skills, not on the fly or from baseball cultural history or even from on-the-job experience, but from other managers.

In debunking the myth and addressing Point 1, the evidence shows that the vast majority of coaches used stage 4 and 5 approaches in attempts to keep the experiences object, and only one of the coaches used an overall approach to keep his experiences subject. By and large, coaches didn't want to pick a fight with the umpire, even when a coach felt strongly that the umpire had botched a call. Several felt that disagreements with the umpire could be instructive, not only for the coach himself, about also for the players. Those sentiments clearly reflect stage 4 and 5 approaches.

But the guise of malevolent meetings at home plate is often perpetuated at the Major League level by managers who "act" hostile (but really have no gripe with the ump) to put on a show for their players and fans or to try to add drama. Baseball writer Zach Meisel provides a good example. He relates a story told by Major League umpire Bob Davidson. Davidson was approached by Tommy Lasorda, manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, after one of his players was called out at second base during an attempted steal. But Lasorda didn't come out to protest the call. "All he talked about was an Italian restaurant he ate at and how the wine was bad," said Davidson, as quoted by Meisel. [End Page 145] "He said, 'Hey, you have to throw me out, because I have 48,000 people in the ballpark.'" Davidson obliged.33

While Lasorda's intentions may have been peculiar, he had a specific purpose for his visit to the umpire. Similarly, the coaches in this study often used their trips to the umpire as part of their game strategy, as broached by Point 2. To do so, coaches employed different behaviors spanning the stages of social orders of consciousness to get specific results. Coaches reported using stage 2 behaviors for the expressed purpose of firing up their teams, or stage 3 or 4 to improve the chances of getting favorable decisions on close calls later in the game. Coaches using stage 5 also looked to ingratiate themselves to umpires. But several coaches stated that, more importantly, their actions were meant to understand the umpire's perspective and to develop a relationship, or even friendship, with the umpire. Such an outlook is nothing close to the images of Earl Weaver and Bobby Cox and the angst they caused umpires, as portrayed by the media and documented in the record books.

If such portrayals had an effect on the styles of the coaches in this study, some of whom might have grown up watching those managers, that effect is not evident. Where then, or from whom, did the coaches learn their styles in dealing with umpires, if not from cultural images? Based on evidence from this study, a probable source is coaches for whom they played or worked as an assistant coach. Two coaches in this study had connections to Arkansas baseball coach Dave van Horne and referred to his mentoring. Web pages of other coaches in the study referred to their service and connections to older coaches. In his book on Major League managers, the late sports journalist Leonard Koppett wrote about their "endless references to their predecessors."34 Koppett noted the direct influences managers have had on subsequent generations of big league managers.

Koppett wrote: "Every manager, as a player, worked for some older manager. Each one got his ideas somewhere, and not out of books. None followed those ideas blindly (because circumstances change), but all adopted some basic philosophy as a starting point.… [A]ll young managers absorb the discoveries and methods of earlier creators."35

Such widespread use of stage 4 and 5 behaviors among the coaches studied create other considerations. It might indicate that long-lived baseball myths of the persistent torment managers try to inflict on umpires has little cultural cache for young managers, or those myths have lost their clout over time. Such use may also speak to the temperament of the coaches' baseball mentors and attest to the foresight of these mentors as they passed their wisdom and strategic techniques to their assistants; and now that these assistants are head [End Page 146] coaches, umpires might hope that the coaches will pass stage 4 and 5 philosophies to their assistants.


Compared to other sports, such as football, basketball and hockey, where umpires or referees' decisions are often rigid, baseball offers a unique opportunity for applying Kegan's Social Orders of Consciousness because of the frequent banter between managers and coaches and umpires. The right of Major League managers to challenge an umpires' call and the use of video replay for such calls could limit the circumstances that spawn heated exchanges between the manager and umpire.

But video replay is not part of college or high school baseball, so opportunities for such exchanges at those levels will not diminish; and while there may be more at stake in Major League games and the pressure to win may be greater at professional levels, perhaps creating a greater propensity for managers to argue with umpires, college and high school coaches also face pressure to win. Several college coaches mentioned how much they are judged at their schools by their win-loss records. Regardless, Major League managers are still the most highly visible role models for younger managers.

This experiment in the application of Kegan's Social Orders of Consciousness to coach-umpire exchanges has shown that applying the framework to a larger sample of coaches is worth considering and could make clearer the reasons coaches choose certain approaches to contest umpire decisions. From a strategic and practical point of view, more research along these lines of inquiry could eventually provide a "best practices" list for dealing with umpires in certain situations. Such knowledge might also transcend the ball diamond and be applicable in examining and expediting managerial disagreements in the corporate world. [End Page 147]

Michele Millard

michele millard is an academic consultant and assistant professor of Psychiatry at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha. Her work focuses on learning, leadership, emotional intelligence, teamwork and professional development with medical students and within the community.

David C. Ogden

david c. ogden is professor emeritus from the School of Communication, University of Nebraska at Omaha. He has co-edited three books on sport and culture. His work can also be found in several publications, including Journal of Black Studies, Baseball Research Journal and Journal of Leisure Studies.

Kevin Warneke

kevin warneke has taught journalism, public relations, and fundraising classes at the University of Nebraska Omaha for the past 25 years. His research focus has been baseball and leadership, motivation and team commitment.


1. Robert Kegan, The Evolving Self: Problem and Process in Human Adult Development (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982).

2. Neil H. Katz and Linda T. Flynn, "Understanding Conflict Management Systems and Strategies in the Workplace: A Pilot Study," Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 30 (2013): 393–409.

3. Katz and Flynn.

4. Matthew Lang, "Conflict Management: A Gap in Business Education Curricula," Journal of Education for Business, March/April (2009): 239–45.

5. Carsten De Dreu, "The Virtue and Vice of Workplace Conflict: Food for (Pessimistic) Thought," Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29 (2008): 5–18.

6. Enyonam Kudonoo, Kathy Schroeder and Sheila Boysen-Rotelli, "An Olympic Transformation: Creating an Organizational Culture that Promotes Healthy Conflict," Organizational Development Journal, 30 (2012): 51–66.

7. Jeannie Trudel and Thomas G. Reio, Jr., "Managing Workplace Incivility: The Role of Conflict Management Styles-Antecedent or Antidote?" Human Resource Development Quarterly. 22 (2011): 395–423.

8. Susan Meyer, "Organizational Response to Conflict: Future Conflict and Work Outcomes," Social Work Research, 3 (2004): 183–90.

9. Christine M. Pearson, Lynne M. Andersson and Christine L. Porath, "Assessing and Attacking Workplace Incivility," Organizational Dynamics, 29 (2000): 123–37.

10. Karen A. Jehn, "A Quantitative Analysis of Conflict Types and Dimensions in Organizational Groups," Administrative Science Quarterly, 42 (1997): 530–57.

11. Carsten De Dreu and Laurie Weingart, "Task Versus Relationship Conflict, Team Performance, and Team Member Satisfaction: A Meta-analysis," Journal of Applied Psychology, 88 (2003): 741–49.

12. Lisa H. Pelled, "Demographic Diversity, Conflict, and Work Group Outcomes: An Intervening Process Theory," Organization Science, 6 (1996): 615–31.

13. Jehn, "A Quantitative Analysis."

14. Lindred L. Greer, Karen A. Jehn and Elizabeth A. Mannix, "Conflict Transformation: A Longitudinal Investigation of the Relationships Between Different Types of Intragroup Conflict and the Moderating Role of Conflict Resolution," Small Group Research, 39 (2008): 278–302.

15. Z. Yang, "Transformational Leadership in the Consumer Service Workgroup: Competing Models of Job Satisfaction, Change Commitment, and Cooperative Conflict," Psychological Reports: Employment Psychology & Marketing, 114 (2014): 33–49. [End Page 148] See also Gary Yukl, Leadership in Organizations (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2012).

16. Anit Somech, Helena S. Desivilya and Helena Lidogoster, "Team Conflict Management and Team Effectiveness: The Effects of Task Interdependence and Team Identification," Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30 (2009): 359–78.

17. Kegan, The Evolving Self.

18. Robert Kegan, In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994).

19. John E. Barbuto and Michele L. Millard, "Wisdom Development of Leaders: A Constructive Developmental Perspective," International Journal of Leadership Studies, 5 (2010): 233–44.

20. Kegan, The Evolving Self.

21. Barbuto and Millard, "Wisdom Development of Leaders."

22. Karen Eriksen, "Robert Kegan, PhD: Subject-object Theory and Family Therapy," Family Journal, 14 (2006): 299–305.

23. Robert Kegan and Lisa L. Lahey, How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001).

24. Michael Ignelzi, "Meaning-making in the Learning and Teaching Process," New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 82 (2000): 5–14.

25. Kegan and Lahey, How the Way We Talk.

26. Kegan and Lahey, How the Way We Talk.

27. Kegan and Lahey, How the Way We Talk.

28. Kegan and Lahey, How the Way We Talk.

29. Leonard Koppett, The Man in the Dugout (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000), 151.

30. Bobby Cox, "Hall of Fame Induction Speech," July 27, 2014,, accessed February 23, 2015.

31. Harold Seymour and Dorothy S. Mills, Baseball: The Early Years, Vol. I, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960), 337.

32. Zach Meisel, "Skipper vs. Ump Arguments not Always as They Seem," MLB News, December 14, 2012, accessed January 13, 2015.

33. Meisel, "Skipper vs. Ump".

34. Koppett, The Man in the Dugout, xii

35. Koppett, The Man in the Dugout, xii. [End Page 149]

Additional Information

Print ISSN
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.