06/10/2010 - Ethical Challenges for Internal & External Coaches
As some of you will know on 22 September 2010, Katharine St John-Brooks presented her research findings at the late summer alumni event on what are the ethical challenges involved in being an internal coach?
Katharine’s research was to seek and explore the following:
What are the key ethical dilemmas that arise for internal coaches?
How can organisations best support their internal coaches to equip them to deal with such dilemmas in the most ethical way?
Katharine’s research also looked into whether there were any successful ethics awareness workshops and what the trend in the UK is towards developing an internal coaching provision. Katharine found that there wasn’t a lot of research on internal coaching and ethics but did find a number of books around the subject which can be found in her presentation.
Katharine narrowed down her research to the top 10 dilemmas for internal coaches. She then led the discussion about which dilemmas resonate for us, what we have encountered and how we might deal with them. It soon emerged that there were many of the same challenges for external coaches. One area of debate was understanding the circumstances in which it is appropriate to 'blow the whistle' and maybe disengage from a coaching relationship. One particular issue that was discussed was the case of a coach whose one-on-one coaching client had a drinking problem. The coach made the person aware that colleagues were seeing him in particular light which the client wasn’t aware of and recommended he see a person he knew who was experienced in that area. He ceased to coach the client.
It’s difficult to know what to do in a sitatuation such as this; some organisations have strict drinking policies and therefore the coach should have ‘blown the whistle’ and told the client’s employer the situation as the coach is working for the organisation. It’s a hard decision to make. As a coach you need to gain trust and also there are confidentiality issues and your reputation is at stake.
There were also many other issues which arose throughout the discussion. When do you turn down work especially in this climate? One coach was asked to coach a wife and husband but he decided against it because of the awkwardness. Another dilemma raised was a coach being asked to delay a planned coaching session until the coach’s client had been informed of his redundancy. The coach spoke to the organisation and said this wouldn’t be a good idea as the client would realise that he had known about the redundancy and his trust and reputation would be lost.
These issues also highlighted the need for external coaches to ask organisations what their code of ethics/policies are in the case of difficult situations, especially in the case of bullying, sexual discrimination and drug and alcohol abuse.
Another deep discussion which arose for internal coaches especially was a role conflict; where the coach’s day job impinges on their coaching relationship. One example cited was where a coach was coaching an internal client. The coach’s HR support was requested as part of a disciplinary process for the same person that she was coaching. This puts the coach in a very awkward position that they should not have to experience.
These are common issues that organisations need to address and they are not always thought about until the issues arise. Organisations need to make sure they have the appropriate training and support to navigate the ethical waters without difficulty.
It highlights - especially for internal coaches - the reason for supervision. Read our supervision blog featured in september for more information.
To find out more about Katharine’s’ research please download her presentation below. You can also read her story on Moral Support for internal Coaches.