Coaching for a More Ethical World- Part I

Sep 27, 2021

An article, based on the amalgamation of learner notes, from the  Awake Aware Arise session on Coaching for an Ethical World  by David Clutterbuck

Awake Aware Arise was a virtual conference lead by Coacharya for leaders, coaches, and those who want to make a change – to truly Awake to the suffering in the world around them, become Aware of their responsibilities, and Arise together to act and be counted.

Ethics, or its lack thereof, and Coaching:

Ethics is the ability to use our wisdom to create more positive outcomes for us or for the people. For increased sustainability in our world, ethics plays a vital role.

The focus of David’s session was on how, as coaches, we can promote ethical behavior in ourselves and in our clients, and also on how we and our clients can remain ethical and authentic in otherwise politicized corporate and societal environments.

Key Challenges in society
Key Challenges in Society

So…what do these challenges mean for coaches?

‘Challenges’ for coaches is beyond the practice of doing the coaching but rather being the coach. It is more about moving beyond “adhering to codes of practice’’ to becoming ethical role models.

Common Experiences of Ethical Concerns in Coaching:

  • Coachee being aware of corruption between colleagues

  • Coaching siblings while not being aware that they are related

  • Layoffs in crucial times


1.Coaching a tobacco company when the coach themselves doesn’t like smoking.

Here, the debate about the objective of coaching is whether to increase the profitability of the company or help the employees improve their work-life balance or maybe deal with personal issues? Coaches need to be clear on the boundaries.

2.The coached employee leaves the company resulting in an upset sponsor

It is not an issue if the person who left was in the wrong role and left the company in a positive manner. The person can be re-recruited for another role later. If a coachee says that they are planning to leave the company, the coach needs to be ethical and keep that to themselves not letting the sponsor know. If the contract between the sponsor and coach doesn’t have the clause to let the sponsor know about the coachee’s future plan, then confidentiality between coach and coachee takes priority.

The above are few examples of very many.

So… the big question that arises is: “Is not being ethical becoming normal?”

The survey data suggests unethical behavior is not a norm, but is still very common these days. And hence, “Ethical dilemma” is the issue that crops up from this data.

What creates an ethical dilemma? 

Ethical dilemmas occur in the following instances:

  • When someone is conflicted about making the right choice

  • When two or more values compete for priority – These values may be personal, organizational, societal, or a mixture of these three.

  • Can arise as a result of secrecy or by fear

  • When the organizational climate doesn’t bring ethical considerations into sufficient prominence, the wrong priorities dominate, and perspective becomes too narrow

  • When the employees are put into high stress with a poor work-life balance

  • Intense competition and lack of open discussions

  • Customers complain about unfair treatments

Keeping these in mind, the coach needs to help the coachee to make a decision when they struggle with ethical dilemmas. Not an easy task as ethics relates and is dictated by the society we live in. For example, discrimination, considered unethical today, was a norm a few centuries ago.

Characteristics of Ethics

Below are common phrases used to justify “unethical behavior”:

  • It is not really “illegal” or immoral

  • It’s in the individual or company’s best interest

  • The activity is safe because it will never be found out or publicized

Ethical Coaching, then?

Ethical coaching is nothing but the confidential learning between peers, aimed at helping the mentee/coachee: resolve ethical dilemmas, develop the ability to work with ethical dilemmas, influence an ethical culture in organizations, help become more authentic and value-driven leaders.

Ethical coaching aims to help have ethical leaders at the top and pave the way for more ethical behavior throughout the organization.

PART II of ‘Coaching for a More Ethical World’ 

Mala Mathew
Mala Mathew


Mala Annamma Mathew is an educator specializing in media and digital literacy for young students. Currently, she is pursuing her second master’s degree in Digital Media: Education, at University College London, the number one (according to Top University Ranking) university for education-related degrees in the world. She has over 8 years of experience in education and is also an examiner for the International Baccalaureate.

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