Ethics Case Studies

Here are two different scenarios / cases.
Please add in the comments your thoughts, how would you handle these.

Case #1:
You are hired to coach a team of GM and their leader (Region Director). During a session you notice that the language team members use seems somehow sexist and some jokes can be considered inappropriate. The female team members go with it and laugh as well.
As a TC you start feeling uncomfortable with some jokes. Also, you wonder if this is an indication of the culture of the team or the organisation, but you are not sure it is something you can bring up.
What would you do?

Case #2:
The sponsor (HR) hires you to coach the Management Team of the company, because there have been incidents of lack of alignment and some conflict. But, the sponsor does not want you to disclose this to the team and informs them that they will do TC because of the recent change of values of the organisation.
You agree, but are not 100% comfortable knowing this "hidden agenda" of the sponsor.
What would you do?

Wow, some next-level scenarios!
Scenario 1: I would probably incorporate aspects of the facilitation modality on this one. I would facilitate a 'team values' activity incorporating their personal values and having the team values as the output. These values, once those have been agreed upon by the team, will provide a neutral '3rd party' of sorts. The next time the behavior occurs, I will be able to display curiosity and non-judgment through coaching questions. Does the behavior align with all their team values/individual values? No? What values are you trying to tap into with the behavior? What are some other ways to do that while holding all values, not just some?

That way they have the opportunity for self-awareness and lasting change.

Case #1
if I notice that all the team members really accept this kind of jokes and it's their style of communication that helps them to feel on the same wave, I will try to accept it, if I fail, I'll carefully tell the team about my discomfort as we are partners in the coaching process

Case #2
As far as I feel, the way how the Sponsor brings the idea of Team Coaching to the Team is totally his responsibility, plus he knows better his team. In this case 'the recent change of values of the organization' sounds much better than the real reason. For me more important is that with Sponsor we understand in the same way the outcome from Team Coaching and precise it in the contract.

Scenario 2: I would try to block the info shared by HR as best as I can. Then, as we learned this past session, asking the team "why are you here?" can open the door to making the engagement theirs, real to them. The process should be able to let issues come to the surface, right. Also, conflict is not in itself a bad thing if the team learns to approach it in a positive manner.

Case #1 - I would share an observation that as a outside party, the comments are jarring and uncomfortable. I would inquire if this is what they intend to project. From there, I would let the conversation develop within the team members.

Case # 2 - I would decline the work and share with the sponsor why. Should the sponsor be willing to listen, I would suggest that we use the recent values change (communicating it out, modeling the values in action, etc.) as the project for the team to work on together to create leadership alignment through healthy conflict. It provides the opportunity for alignment to develop without a hidden agenda.

Case #1
There are some hard lines from an HR perspective that cannot be condoned, and as a coach or party to any such behavior, we become part of the problem and liability for not addressing. This is one clear condition that cannot be compromised in working with a team (anti-harassment training 101!). Ground rules should clearly include a framework for immediately addressing any inappropriate comments or jokes and an opportunity to reinforce the coach’s obligation and support for company HR policies and standards, as well as ethical practice for coaches. Clarity is important and tone as well—it can be matter-of-fact but in a supportive manner for the ongoing success and best interest of the team. There are also team diagnostic tools with a category that addresses elements of diversity and inclusion, revealing objective, anonymous, collective perspective to serve as a basis for rich discussion and exploration with the team.

Case #2
I would value the sponsor’s initial input as one data point. I would, in turn, inform the sponsor that alignment and conflict (both healthy and unhealthy) are common themes addressed over the course of team coaching, but that the work with the team is strictly confidential to the team, that I would not be addressing matters discussed with the team with him/her (the sponsor) and vice versa, and I would strongly encourage him/her to let the process work. Aside from the angle of ethics, I cannot think of a body of organizational values that would not directly or indirectly lend themselves to discussing alignment and conflict; these topics as a matter of course would be part of working with any team. In this regard, the sponsor’s initial input would help to heighten awareness when exploring these topics as they surface naturally with the team.

Note: Experience shows that as coaches we can’t control what information we receive from a variety of sources, nor can we control what interactions those sources have independently of the team in their ongoing workplace interactions. We do, however, make our position clear on confidentiality and conflict of interest and strictly adhere to that position and likewise hold the team accountable in our engagement.

Case #1
As both an HR professional and also as a Coach, I would need to address the language/word choice/jokes that are used in the session. Furthermore, I would take an opportunity to remind the team of the rules of engagement that would have been set during the beginning of the team coaching engagement.

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#Scenario 1: I would introduce a culture discussion into the team discussion, get them to unpack the kind of culture they want as a team and have them breakdown the behaviours that would best support that culture, hereby allowing the space for them to challenge each other when team members behave in a way that doesn't serve the team.

#Scenario 2: This feels very much like a presenting issue in coaching and as with a presenting issue I would proceed with the TC sessions, unpacking barriers and patterns of behaviour of the team as single entity, if we manage to create awareness there and we address these patterns then the presenting issue should somehow sort itself out. I have to trust the process.

Case #1 highlights the importance of having the initial sessions with the team about ethics and agreements on behavior, conduct etc. during the team coaching sessions. As a coach, one would revisit them and be honest about the discomfort around these jokes. Let the next steps emerge from the team.

Case1: If, as a coach, I feel other team members seem ok with it, I will reflect on my internal process first to check if it is my assumption or bias. Once sure on my instinct( post checking with my supervisor), I would ask the team( with a process to consider each person’s view) :
• what psychological safety at work means to them?
or
• What would they need to be more comfortable working as a team in a formal or informal setting?

Case2: The sponsor has known the team for a more extended period than I. I would respectfully ask the sponsor to share their concerns with sharing the clarity of the objective with the team while explaining to them the opportunity of getting better results end of a team-coaching due to clarity of the agenda.
I would offer to co-create with them an opportunity to bring transparency of coaching needs to the team while mitigating the risks the sponsor shares. As a coach, this would also be my place to declare what I can and cannot deliver( like I cannot deliver progress on a coaching objective that has not been contracted with the team).

Scenario 1: I coached and consulted a team of blue collar workers who along with their manager had a different standard for behavior a couple of years ago. They joked with each other crudely and often using sexist language. My role as team coach is not to change the culture but to be clear about my own boundaries and to offer up opportunities for leaders to tackle. So long as everyone felt comfortable sharing opinions and disagreeing in healthy ways and so long as no one complained about the sexist behavior, I let it go in my presence. However, when someone directed a sexist comment toward me or in this case publicly flirted with me, the same day I spoke with them directly in a 1:1. He apologized and I let him know I would also inform his manager of his behavior and my response though no follow up would be needed since we resolved it together. I only had to address the issue once with one person. Word got around about my boundaries, and I didn't have any issues after that and I contracted with them for over a year (and loved every minute of it). Simultaneously, I coached the director of the department and used that forum to share my observations with specifics regarding sexist language/behavior observed in group and private settings to demonstrate how the organization's value of "respect for values" wasn't embraced on the ground. I offered the director the opportunity to take on the culture shift which they continue to work on to this day.

Case 2: I would meet with each member of the Management Team and the HR sponsor to learn about their perceptions and desires for team coaching and offer them insight into how I might support them collectively. I would bring back a proposed agenda to everyone that centers the Mgmt Team as the client. I would meet separately with the HR sponsor one more time to validate their care and concern for the Mgmt Team dynamics and ask that I treat the Mgmt Team as the client moving forward, not the HR Sponsor. I would share that I will keep my eye on lack of alignment and unhealthy conflict; however, the work needs to center on what the Mgmt Team wants to accomplish first. I would ask for the HR sponsor's buy in on this plan in order to move forward. Moving forward I would also ask the HR sponsor to get updates via the Mgmt Team rather than through me.