How to avoid ethical dilemmas in organisational coaching


Ethics, boundaries, behaviours and attitude have an important place in organisational strategic coaching. Ethical practice refers to the standards of professional conduct which a coach is expected to uphold. Ethical maturity at a strategic level is essential and is defined as ‘the increasing capacity to embrace ethical complexity and deal with appropriate respect and fairness to all parties involved in a situation (Carroll, M, 1996).

At a strategic level issues around ethics and boundaries can often be blurred particularly when operating as an internal coach or even as a manager using a coaching style. Can a manager successfully coach their team and maintain good boundaries? Issues around confidentiality may arise particularly if the member of staff reveals something which might harm them or others. There may be a conflict of interest in terms of organisational conduct. How can the manager maintain confidentiality acting as a coach if this is at conflict with their conduct or performance at work?

At a strategic level coaching supervision will help to avoid ethical dilemmas including cases where bullying, racism and sexism might come into play. Through the process of supervision the supervisor will be skilled enough to pick up on what is going on between the person they are supervising (supervisee) and the supervisee’s team member /coachee. As such potentially prevent long term problems and malpractice.

As a coaching supervisor part of your role is to ensure that your supervisee is working within ethical boundaries and is aware of any ethical issues or dilemmas which the coach-manager may not have recognised in themselves.

Ethical Maturity in the Helping Professions (Carroll,M & Shaw, S 2012) is a fascinating and essential read for all supervisors and executive coaches. The book helps you to understand your own moral compass and the choices you make.

As an internal coach is it good practice to coach someone you know or who you have prior knowledge of due to internal politics? To avoid pitfalls, the most important thing for all coaching situations is clear contracting at the very start of the coaching relationship and spot contracting throughout which gives you, as coach-manager the opportunity to stop the session and deal with whatever has been said.

What is often missing from any organisational coach development is the on-going supervision for coach-managers. This would give managers the opportunity to talk about conflicts of interest and ethical issues when coaching their teams to ensure that they themselves are coaching to ethical standards.

Your coaching supervisor can help support you through ethic issues and boundaries. Contact us now to book your coaching supervision session. 0795 2033395