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Ethical situations in executive coaching as experienced and evaluated by psychology and non psychology trained coaches

M Sass 2016

The last 20 years has seen a proliferation in the practice of executive coaching despite the limited empirical research about its efficacy. This research focused on ethical issues arising in the practice of business and managerial coaching (“executive coaching”), which had not been extensively examined in coaching literature. The research consisted of two studies. Study 1 was an empirical study to identify actual ethical issues and dilemmas that had been experienced by both psychology and non-psychology trained executive coaches working as either internal or external coaches. A total of 68 participants, a majority of whom were U.S. based coaches, submitted 90 ethical cases experienced in their coaching practice. It was hypothesized that executive coaches with different educational backgrounds would report different types of ethical issues and dilemmas but the results did not support this claim. Analysis showed that 78% of cases were classified in the categories of confidentiality, contracting, conflicts of interest, informed consent, and multiple relationships. The remaining 22% of cases centered on ethical topics such as diversity, use of assessments, record keeping and coaching supervision. In Study 2, the evaluation of coach behavior described in ethical vignettes was examined among 144 participants who were psychology-trained, business-trained, or other-trained executive coaches. Findings suggested that, in general, differences in education did not appear to be associated with statistically significant differences in the evaluation of ethical behavior. Implications for coach practitioners and current coaching organizations are addressed.

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