International Coach Federation Deutschland

What my research on ethical dilemmas in coaching revealed


Note to fellow coaches and clients

In 2010 I completed my first certification in Coaching and gradually I started working as a part-time coach. With time and experience I realised that our work is much more complex than I would have imagined. It requires several competences as described by the Coaching bodies relevant frameworks and continuous effort to adapt and apply those competences.

People differ as personalities and have a lot of other differences in educational and cultural background, in experience, in physical and emotional characteristics, in beliefs and values. With time I realised that it is really challenging to be able to ask the appropriate question at the right moment in order to motivate, illuminate and provoke deep change in people’s minds, thinking and behaviour.

Our own continuous development is a must and can only be achievable if we invest time, effort and a lot of thinking not only to acquire advanced professional knowledge, but also to improve and deepen our self-awareness. 

How can we be really inclusive and not biased unless we know our own biases that come from our culture, education, upbringing and personality?

How can we be free or at least aware of stereotypes that are part of our mentality and way of thinking?

How do we perceive the world, other social groups, various nationalities, religions, professions and ourselves as part of this world?

What is our understanding of other people’s perceptions of the world and themselves?

Answers may come easily according to a “politically correct” attitude that we usually adopt but the session is the real field of trial, error and awareness about ourselves.

Because I had all those burning questions, I have decided to dedicate time, effort and a big passion in researching Ethics, in reading biology, history and anthropology to discover more facts, truths and ideas about how we shape our perceptions, values and personalities so that I could be more aware of myself and others. 

Ethics encompasses all aspects of our behaviour personally and professionally and is the utmost expression of quality in all aspects of personal, social and professional life.



There is a lot of documentation about dilemmas in coaching. Dilemmas could be ethical or professional; they are the proof that we can still question the world around us, our work and capabilities, and our own thinking. The ways in which we address them can be the basis of our evolution as professionals, citizens, and human beings. 

Some of the key findings of the survey:

  • 87% are over 45 years old
  • 34.3% men and 64.9% women
  • 71% of participants have a Masters or PhD
  • never had a dilemma in their coaching practice (7.3%) 
  • had a dilemma in the last month (28%) 
  • had a dilemma in the last six months (31.5%)
  • 72% had 1-4 dilemmas in the last 12 months (72%)


The participants were asked to choose up to three of their most recent dilemmas: 

  • “managing own weaknesses” (39.6%) 
  • “conflicting interests between sponsor and coachee” (33.2%) 
  • “Working with a client who diverts from the goals that have been agreed with their sponsoring organization” (30%)
  • “Confidentiality issues in the organisational environment” (26.8%)
  • “Managing boundaries of the coaching profession” (25.9%)
  • “Managing relations in an organization” (24.7%)


The main root cause of dilemmas they declared is “Clash between my value system and the value system of my client” (42%)


The biggest risks of a wrong decision in handling a dilemma are: 

  • “losing trust with the coachee or the sponsor” (47.8%)
  • “doing harm to the client’s development” (42.2%) and 
  • “damage of my credibility as a professional” (40.2%)


Participants’ solution to handle dilemmas are:

  • “supervision” as first choice (72.3%)
  • “reflection on the issue” (62.9%) 
  • and lower in the list of preference are “discussing / recontracting with the client” (45.4%) and “discussion with trusted colleagues” (42.2%).


if they faced a dilemma again, they would discuss it at supervision (79.5%).


Key conclusions of the survey

  • Coaches have dilemmas about their own weaknesses, conflicting interests, their clients’ changing goals, confidentiality and others which they prefer to manage with the support of supervision.
  • Dilemmas slightly differ between the genders and professional experience and seems that there is an almost steady percentage of people who never have dilemmas. 
  • The type of dilemmas changes significantly over time; experienced coaches have different dilemmas from novice ones. Also, there are differences between the genders in the predominant dilemmas.
  • Clash of values between the coach and the coachee is the most common source of a dilemma.

As coaches we do not have answers; we have questions, curiosity and interest in our clients.

We may open new ways in thinking, new options and opportunities and we may inspire and motivate our clients in the process.

Having realized how we can affect our clients’ thinking, action and eventually life direction, we may have ethical dilemmas relative to various topics; but most importantly, our ethical dilemmas may derive from our responsibility towards our clients.

Serious thinking and consideration of Ethics in our work can be our continuous evolution personally and professionally.  


Maria Biquet is an experienced Business Consultant, Executive Coach and Lecturer with vast experience from diverse business fields. She has worked in multinational companies and Banks in senior marketing roles; she has established new Banks in the market.

She works as a Coach and Consultant with senior executives and teams from different countries on people development and projects on culture assessment and change; certified in a range of assessment tools. Lecturer at the University of East London (Athens, Greece), Coach Supervisor and Trainer. 

Maria holds an MBA-International Marketing from Sunderland University – UK, a BA in Literature and Linguistics from the University of Athens – GR and a Diploma in Coaching from the Coaching Institute – UK, and has an advanced certification as Neuro-coach by NeuroBusinessGroup in the USA and a Certified Master Coach by the CAC (Centre for Advanced Coaching) in the USA.

EMCC Accredited Senior Practitioner Coach, President EMCC Greece and Senior Researcher on Ethics.

Works in English, Greek and French. | E:

Autorin: Maria Biquet  |

ISSN: 2702-7880

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