Conflict of Interest: What do you think? Ethical Challenges Series

Conflict of Interest What do you think?

A coach has a client who owns their own hair salon.  The coach’s friend decides to start their own business – a hair salon – and will be a competitor of the client.  The coach has completed their coach training and is a member of the ICF and accountable to the Code of Ethics. Conflict of Interest  What do you think?

Possible Responses:

  • The coach simply continues coaching.
  • The coach ends the coaching engagement with no explanation.
  • The coach explains the conflict to the client and ends the coaching engagement.
  • The coach reflects on their own ability to continue coaching, decides they can continue, explains the possible conflict to the client, and gives the client the choice whether to continue.
  • The coach reflects on their own ability to continue coaching, decides they cannot continue, explains the conflict to the client, and removes themselves from the coaching relationship..
  • What else?

Refer to the ICF Code of Ethics:

8) Strive at all times to recognize my personal issues that may impair, conflict with or interfere with my coaching performance or my professional coaching relationships. I will promptly seek the relevant professional assistance and determine the action to be taken, including whether it is appropriate to suspend or terminate my coaching relationship(s) whenever the facts and circumstances necessitate.

13) Seek to be conscious of any conflict or potential conflict of interest, openly disclose any such conflict and offer to remove myself when a conflict arises.

22) Respect the client’s right to terminate the coaching relationship at any point during the process, subject to the provisions of the agreement. I shall remain alert to indications that there is a shift in the value received from the coaching relationship.

23) Encourage the client or sponsor to make a change if I believe the client or sponsor would be better served by another coach or by another resource and suggest my client seek the services of other professionals when deemed necessary or appropriate.

24) Maintain the strictest levels of confidentiality with all client and sponsor information unless release is required by law.


Q: I am coaching Jane, and a peer of hers, Alice, requests me to be her coach. Do I need to let Alice know I am already coaching Jane?
A: No, you do not need to. Unless you have Jane’s consent, you may not even mention it. Be aware, however, that this could present conflicts with confidentiality. Potential general conflicts should be clarified with each party.

Q: May I accept a coaching contract for a corporate mid-level manager when I am already coaching his boss?
A: You may accept this contract if you think that you can maintain an objective stance and confidentiality with both clients. You can discuss in general terms with the first client how he would feel about you coaching someone else in the company. Be aware it could present a conflict of interest while coaching, however, in hiring and firing decisions, etc.

Q: May I coach a family member or friend?
A: Yes, as long as you explain in advance how your role as a coach is different than your role as a friend or family member.

How do you recommend it be handled?


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