Executive Report 2017, The State of Play in European Coaching & Mentoring: Ethics

Jonathan Passmore, Hazel Brown, Zoltan Csigas et al

We’d love to share with you some of the finding from the research commissioned by EMCC and undertaken by a team of researchers in 50 countries across Europe.

Passmore, J, Brown, H, Csigas, Z & the European Coaching and Mentoring Research Consortium (2017) The State of Play in European Coaching & Mentoring – Executive Report. Henley-on-Thames: Henley Business School and EMCC International ISBN 978-1-912473-00-7


What are ethics?

The issue of ethics is a philosophical field concerned with systematising, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong. Multiple approaches have been offered reflecting different principles, although many common features occur in most ethical codes, reflecting a common desire to do good as opposed to harm and to act for universal causes rather than for exclusively self-interest.

Why is ethics important in coaching?

Ethics remains an under-researched aspect of coaching practice, but it is widely recognised as an important part of professional standards that all professions should adopt (1). However, the diversity of coaches’ backgrounds means that personal professional backgrounds and the subtle variations in cultural differences may lead to differences in interpretation when faced with ethical dilemmas.


The coaches who responded to this section typically share their ethical code (56%) and they typically tell the client about it at the start of the coaching conversation (32%).

Sharing ethical codes – 1

Sharing ethical codes – 2

We asked coaches what should happen to a coach in the following situations as a means of exploring attitudes towards tricky situations or ethical dilemmas. In this section responses varied widely, with coaches being divided for example over what action should be taken over bribery, sexual relationships within a coaching relationship and commercial theft. These suggest that in some areas professional bodies need to do more work to create greater consistency in the understanding of ethical conduct and compliance with their own ethical codes, which in some cases explicitly bar some of these practices.

Ethical Dilemma 1 – Coach pays a fee to secure the contract

Ethical Dilemma 2 – Coach enters a sexual relationship with client

Ethical Dilemma 3 – Coach enters a sexual relationship after coaching relationship has ended

Ethical Dilemma 4 – Coach fails to report ‘low-level’ drug taking by client

Ethical Dilemma 5 – Coach fails to report theft of commercially sensitive information


(1) Lowman, R L (2013) Coaching ethics. In: J Passmore, D Peterson & T Freire (eds) The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Coaching & Mentoring. Chichester: Wiley