Home Concepts Ethics When Ethics Could Collide: Nine Practices

When Ethics Could Collide: Nine Practices

12 min read

The Business Dictionary defines ethics as ‘the basic concepts and fundamental principles of decent human conduct.  It includes the study of universal values such as essential equality of all men and women, human or natural rights, obedience of the law of the land, concern for health and safety and increasingly also for the natural environment.’  Looking at this definition one can see some of the principles included vary from country to country, for example, ‘obedience of the law of the land’ where what is considered lawful in one country is not in another and ‘essential equality of all men and women’ where many countries do not practice this principle.

Ethics are typically defined in the context of a community be it a country, a state, a religious group, a professional group.  They define the rules of the culture of that community.   “Culture describes a collective way of life, or way of doing things.  It is the sum of attitudes, values, goals and practices shared by individuals in a group, organization or society.  Cultures vary over time, between countries and geographic regions, and among groups and organizations.  Culture reflects the moral and ethical beliefs and standards that speak to how people should behave and interact with others. “ (2)

When a coach is working with a client in a country other than their own country, they are faced with the probability of a different culture and thus ethics of the two regions may be dissimilar.  Layer on top of this the professional code of practice respected by the coach, assuming they belong to one of several professional coaching groups that have developed professional standards.

The opportunity for differences of cultural practices within the relationship between the coach and client is always present and when the coach adds their professional code of conduct into the mix and the client adds their code of practice from their organization, the ability for the coach to understand the principles at play can become challenging.  For example, in the United States, one cultural influencer is the focus on the individual while in Asia the focus is on the collective, what is best for the organization.  These represent two different perspectives and do not reflect what is right or wrong, rather what a specific cultural belief of that community represents.  These influencers affect the ethical norms of each individual

Returning to my discussion described above, as we continued to explore our perspectives, the possibility to see one’s ethical perspective as ‘right,’ means others  are then seen as ‘wrong’.  ‘Rules’ such as those of a professional code when layered over national cultures can take us to a place of positional absolutes, which can create an additional layer of complexity in the coaching relationship.

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