Coaching Client Dating a Colleague

Imagine this dilemma:  You are hired by a company to coach an employee.  After working with the employee, your coaching client, for several months you learn they are dating a co-worker.  You are aware the company has a policy against dating co-workers.  Then to further complicate things, you learn that this relationship is negatively impacting productivity on the job.  What should you do as a coach?

One consideration is whether or not to disclose the situation to the sponsor or the company.  Ideally before beginning to coach, you established the parameters of confidentiality with both the sponsor and your client so that whether or not this is disclosed is pre-determined.  If not (yikes), then refer to your Code of Ethics for guidance.  As a side, there are coaches who do not have a Code of Ethics and have not received training on ethics so in that case, the process becomes blurry and opens up liability issues.

Beyond the disclosure question is how you work with the client moving forward.  Start with the decision tree taught in the Certified Professional Coach class:

Coach – ask yourself, “Can I effectively coach this coachee?”

  • If the answer is yes, ask yourself, “Could this be perceived as a conflict of interest?”
    • If the answer is yes, explain the potential conflict to the coachee and give them a choice whether to continue with you as a coach or not.
    • If the answer is no, it is a non-issue.
  • If the answer is no, then ask yourself, “Would providing the specifics of this conflict potentially create a problem?”
    • If the answer is yes, simply advise the coachee that you have a personal conflict and must remove yourself as a coach.
    • If the answer is no, advise the coachee of the conflict and remove yourself as a coach.

If you are removing yourself as a coach, provide referrals to three other coaches.

If you do continue coaching the client after following the decision tree, questions you may choose to ask include:

  • What are the pros and cons of this relationship?
  • What are the considerations?
  • What are the possibilities if you continue?
  • What are the possibilities if you do not continue?
  • What is your process for deciding and following through with your decision?

What additional thoughts or questions do you have on this type of coaching situation?

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