1. An Introduction to Solving Ethical Situations
1.1 General Considerations
As a coach, you will deal with a wide range of issues. Depending on the type of issue with which you are faced, you may experience a variety of emotions/feelings and thoughts.
Sometimes, you may feel that an action/behaviour is wrong. At other times, you may suspect or even know that a behaviour is illegal. In other instances, you may feel unsure about a situation and a decision, since there seems to be a number of alternatives that could be acceptable. If you ask yourself this type of question, the issue most likely has ethical implications.
Often, a conversation with the person(s) involved is all that is necessary to adequately deal with thesituation. However, at other times this will not be sufficient, and you may have to make a more formal intervention or refer the matter to some other level of authority.
1.2 Values and Ethics: What are they?
Our values represent a set of deeply held beliefs upon which our thoughts and actions are based; we refer to our values in evaluating our own actions as well as the actions and decisions of others. In coaching, our core values are expressed as a series of principles defined by the NCCP Code of Ethics. A code of ethics defines what is considered good and right behaviour.
Ethical issues arise when our values and the corresponding ethical principles are compromised in some way. When this happens, the decisions are often sensitive and difficult to make. In these situations, the quality of the decisions made by the coach depends on a number of factors including:
- an understanding of the facts of the situation
- an awareness of his/her own values, and of the various factors that can influence his/her decision
- the use of appropriate benchmarks to analyze the situation and understand what is involved
- the ability to apply a rigorous decision-making framework to the situation at hand
This module deals with each of these factors as part of an ethical decision-making process.
1.3 Ethical Decision-Making Process
This document outlines a process that will enable you to make thoughtful and responsible decisions in situation presenting ethical or moral dilemmas. To this end, a series of steps will be proposed, each emphasizing certain questions. These steps are summarized in the diagram on the following page.
If you follow this path and answer the questions to the best of your knowledge, you will:
- ensure you have a thorough process to enable you to make sensitive decisions;
- have solid arguments to justify your decisions from an ethical point of view; and
- feel confident to fully assume the consequences of your decisions, knowing that “it was the right thing to do under the circumstances”.
Note: The process described in the following sections applies to situations that do not require an emergency response by the coach. In the case of crucial and urgent situations, for instance when a person is injured or if there is an imminent risk for the safety of people, the duty of the coach is to take whatever measures he/she feels are necessary in the short term to manage the situation, and to protect the individuals concerned. These particular aspects are dealt with in the “Planning a Practice” module, in sections of the Reference Material that cover risk factors, emergency action plan, and coach liability.