ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Coaching can have tremendous positive effects, but to date, there has been little attention to the possibility that coaching can also exhibit negative effects. To fill this void, this literature review introduces the concepts of negative effects of coaching for clients, coaches and organisations to a wide audience of coaching researchers and practitioners. In a synthesis of the literature, it illuminates which negative effects can emerge, how frequently and intensely they occur, and which antecedents can explain their occurrence. Nine different studies with a qualitative, cross-sectional, time-lagged, or experimental research orientation were identified and used for this review. Throughout the diverse studies, negative effects occurred frequently, but only a few of them were severe and most of them were low in intensity. Concerning their antecedents, higher relationship quality between clients and coaches was related to fewer negative effects. The findings also indicated a beneficial influence of supervision. Moreover, negative effects for clients and negative effects for coaches were interrelated. These findings contribute to the professionalisation of coaching and put coaching in line with other helping relationships, where negative effects have been acknowledged as natural occurrences without being taboo. © 2018
Content may be subject to copyright.
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research
and Practice
ISSN: 1752-1882 (Print) 1752-1890 (Online) Journal homepage:
A literature review on negative effects of coaching
– what we know and what we need to know
Carsten C. Schermuly & Carolin Graßmann
To cite this article: Carsten C. Schermuly & Carolin Graßmann (2018): A literature review
on negative effects of coaching – what we know and what we need to know, Coaching: An
International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, DOI: 10.1080/17521882.2018.1528621
To link to this article:
Published online: 03 Oct 2018.
Submit your article to this journal
Article views: 2
View Crossmark data
A literature review on negative eects of coaching what we
know and what we need to know
Carsten C. Schermuly and Carolin Graßmann
SRH University of Applied Sciences Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Coaching can have tremendous positive eects, but to date, there
has been little attention to the possibility that coaching can also
exhibit negative eects. To ll this void, this literature review
introduces the concepts of negative eects of coaching for clients,
coaches and organisations to a wide audience of coaching
researchers and practitioners. In a synthesis of the literature, it
illuminates which negative eects can emerge, how frequently
and intensely they occur, and which antecedents can explain their
occurrence. Nine dierent studies with a qualitative, cross-
sectional, time-lagged, or experimental research orientation were
identied and used for this review. Throughout the diverse
studies, negative eects occurred frequently, but only a few of
them were severe and most of them were low in intensity.
Concerning their antecedents, higher relationship quality between
clients and coaches was related to fewer negative eects. The
ndings also indicated a benecial inuence of supervision.
Moreover, negative eects for clients and negative eects for
coaches were interrelated. These ndings contribute to the
professionalisation of coaching and put coaching in line with
other helping relationships, where negative eects have been
acknowledged as natural occurrences without being taboo.
Received 8 March 2018
Accepted 23 September 2018
Business coaching; negative
eects of coaching; side
eects of coaching;
antecedents of negative
eects; consequences of
negative eects
Practice points
.Coaches should pay attention to potential negative eects and discuss them with their
clients during coaching
.Coaches may want to use supervision to talk about negative eects for their clients or
themselves in a non-judgemental atmosphere
.Coaching education should integrate negative eects and their antecedents into their
programmes to inform coaches about when and how they might be prevented
The popularity of coaching is reected in the proliferation of coaching research. Research
has reached a level where statistical synopses are possible and general results concerning
© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Carsten C. Schermuly SRH University of Applied Sciences
Berlin, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 10, 10587 Berlin, Germany
the eects of coaching are available (see the meta-analyses by Jones, Woods, & Guillaume,
2015; Sonesh et al., 2015; Theeboom, Beersma, & van Vianen, 2014). Moreover, important
literature reviews were published in this research eld over the last few years (see Bozer &
Jones, 2018 or Grover & Furnham, 2016). The meta-analyses reveal positive eects of
coaching on dierent variables. Coaching can increase the clientsself-regulatory abilities
and their job performance, but coaching is also eective in changing job attitudes, well-
being and coping abilities (Theeboom et al., 2014). Another meta-analysis (Jones et al.,
2015) shows that coaching has positive eects on organisational outcomes as well,
although the eects for clients were stronger. Bozer and Jones (2018) discuss the
results for seven dierent core constructs in coaching research and nd, for example,
that self-ecacy is a consistent coaching outcome but also an important predictor for
coaching outcomes. Grover and Furnham (2016) report a high return on investment for
Coaching and can show that coaching has longitudinal impacts.
Dierent methodical factors that might inuence the eect sizes have been tested in
the meta-analyses. For example, short-term coachings are as eective as longer ones
(Theeboom et al., 2014), internal coaches produce better results than external (Jones
et al., 2015) and coachings with virtual components are not less eective than mere
face-to-face coachings (Jones et al., 2015). Overall, coaching seems to have moderately
positive eects on a variety of coaching outcomes. However, the meta-analyses expose
the large heterogeneity of eect sizes, indicating that some coaching processes exhibit
large eects and some rather small eects.
These ndings underline the general belief that coaching can produce a wide range of
positive eects for clients. But this picture is yet incomplete and restricted to solely posi-
tive eects of coaching. A new meta-analysis (Graßmann, Schölmerich, & Schermuly, 2017)
shows that the relationship between coach and client is a core factor inuencing coaching
eects and theories such as the social exchange theory (Blau, 1964; Homans, 1961;Thibaut
& Kelley, 1959) have long postulated that negative eects are regular components of close
relationships. In other helping relationships such as mentoring (Eby, Butts, Lockwood, &
Simon, 2004; Eby, McManus, Simon, & Russell, 2000), supervision (Ramos-Sánchez et al.,
2002) or psychotherapy (Nestoriuc & Rief, 2013), positive and negative eects are investi-
gated in order to understand a broader spectrum of the eects of the respective interven-
tions (see below for a summary). This has not been the case in coaching research lately:
There has been very little discussion within the coaching literature as to whether coaching
interventions can be harmful(Grant, 2007, p. 259). One exception is a book chapter by
Kilburg (2002) who describes the topic as taboo, poorly understood and dened, and
little discussed by practitioners and researchers (Kilburg, 2002, p. 296). He summarises
that despite the importance of knowing how to manage these issues, there is virtually
nothing available in the literature to help executive coaches face these problems
(Kilburg, 2002, p. 288).
Schermuly, Schermuly-Haupt, Schölmerich, and Rauterberg (2014)dene negative
eects as harmful and unwanted results for clients directly caused by coaching that
occur parallel to, or after, coaching (Schermuly et al., 2014, p. 19). All three elements
(unwanted, harmful and direct connection to the coaching process) have to be fullled
to classify the coaching event as a negative eect. There are several arguments about
why it is important for coaching practice and research to work on these kinds of negative
eects of coaching.
Investigations into the negative eects of coaching might help to support practitioners
who are confronted with dicult coaching situations. Specic knowledge regarding the
existence of negative eects and their origins can potentially help to identify, attenuate,
or even prevent them. The identication of potential negative eects might also be impor-
tant so that psychologists and other coaching providers full the ethical requirement (see,
for example, the Ethics Code of the APA, 2002). Coaching has ethical boundaries and it
requires a professional attitude, which recognises the vulnerability of the client and the
potential of unequal power (Gray, 2011). With empirical knowledge, clients can be edu-
cated on not only positive but also negative eects. This might prevent problems when
they occur and help to complete the coaching process successfully (Schermuly &
Graßmann, 2016). In addition, organisations can benet from this new research stream,
as negative eects for clients might do a disservice to the organisationsinterests. Insights
into negative eects may help to decide when to use coaching, which employees and
coaches to select, and how to support them during coaching processes. Finally, it helps
to close the research gap to other professions like mentoring or psychotherapy and to
support the professionalisation of coaching in practice and research. Coaching is a
young eld of practice and research, but increasingly acknowledges the need for profes-
sionalisation and evidence-based coaching (Fietze, 2014; Grant & Cavanagh, 2004). One
critical aspect of professionalisation is to understand the limits of an intervention
(Grant, 2017). One way to understand these limits is to investigate the negative eects
of coaching.
The present work is a literature review. The aim of a literature review is to identify,
evaluate, interpret, and synthesise the existing research on a topic (Bozer & Jones, 2018;
Fink, 1998). The authors of a literature summarise the existing literature and thereby ident-
ify patterns, topics and issues (Seuring & Müller, 2008). A literature review helps to identify
the conceptual content of the eld and can contribute to theory development(Seuring &
Müller, 2008, p. 1700). The main questions and problems that have been addressed so far
are presented and key terms are claried (Hart, 2018).
Our article follows these aims of a literature interview and considers all articles that
were published on the topic so far. We dene the term negative eects of coaching for
clients, coaches and organisation and show theoretical arguments for their existence.
We present the current state of research and the literature from other disciplines (mentor-
ing, psychotherapy and supervision) on negative eects to show where coaching research
stands in comparison to these other professional dyadic relationships. To date, nine
studies have been conducted in this eld of research. The ndings are distributed in
dierent articles and journals. Every article has its own narrow focus and deals with the
negative eects of coaching from only one perspective (coach, client or organisation).
Some of these articles are published in German. We want to make this research available
for an international audience, summarise it and synthesise key results. Moreover, we want
to identify patterns and conduct comparisons between dierent perspectives on negative
eects. For example, we want to provide answers to the question of whether clients are
more often aected by negative eect than coaches. Also, we provide information
about methodical challenges of the topic. Finally, we want to draw conclusions for the
practice and present a research model in the discussion section, which should guide
future research.
Theoretical arguments for the existence of negative eects in close
Research from social psychology shows that close dyadic relationships are complex and
multidimensional, oering both positive and negative experiences (Duck & Wood,
1995). Social exchange theory (SET; Blau, 1964; Homans, 1961; Thibaut & Kelley, 1959) pro-
poses a theoretical framework and a lens to understand why negative eects can occur in
close relationships such as coaching.
One foundation of SET is the economic idea that individuals in social situations
exchange resources and those resources are primarily acquired in social situations. Not
only services, goods, or money are exchanged but also resources like love/emotional
support, information and status (see Foa & Foa, 1980, for the description of the six basic
resource classes).
Kilburg (1996) sees coaching as a dyadic helping relationship between a coach and a
client to reach dierent goals in the context of work. Helping behaviour is a specic
type of resource exchange (Foa & Foa, 1980), and SET can be applied to understand the
outcomes of coaching relations as well. All of the six resource classes are more or less
exchanged in a coach-client relationship. The coaches are paid by the clients or the
clientsorganisation (money). The clients receive services in return, which usually
include information and emotional support, and with the increased performance the
clients may reach a higher salary (money) and status.
One important expectation of SET is that close relationships not only produce continu-
ous and general benets but also costs and negative eects for the parties involved
(Homans, 1961). Positive and negative events are seen in theory as distinct aspects of a
relationship rather than simply the absence of benets (Eby, Durley, Evans, & Ragins,
2008). According to SET, negative eects are an integral component of close relationships.
Therefore, negative eects should not be pathologised as a taboo topic (Kilburg, 2002).
Instead of pathologising negative eects, they should be viewed as a natural part of all
relationships(Eby et al., 2004).
Moreover, there seems to be a negative asymmetry (Labianca & Brass, 2006; Taylor,
1991) in the importance of positive and negative experiences for the individual. That is,
negative experiences carry more weight in predicting outcomes than positive experiences
(Eby, Butts, Durley, & Ragins, 2010; Labianca & Brass, 2006; Taylor, 1991). This may be due
to the fact that negative experiences occur less frequently than positive experiences
(which makes them more salient) and their diminished ambiguity may make social judge-
ments easier (Labianca & Brass, 2006). As this suggests that negative experiences overtake
positive experiences in explaining outcomes for the individual, this heightens the impor-
tance of their investigation. Therefore, the examination of negative eects should not be
neglected (Duck & Wood, 1995). As we show below, negative eects have therefore
received attention in the research on other helping relationships.
Negative eects in other professional dyadic helping relationships
In contrast to coaching research, other dyadic helping relationships laid the rst foun-
dations for a research tradition on negative eects of their professions. This research is
summarised to gain an orientation for coaching research.
Negative eects in mentoring
Lillian T. Eby has conducted several studies to investigate negative eects in mentoring
relationships. In her stream of research, negative eects are not limited to outcomes,
but rather refer to the mentoring process itself. For instance, protégés experience distan-
cing and manipulative behaviour by their mentor. A mismatch of dyad, lack of mentor
expertise, and general dysfunctionality have also been identied as negative eects
(Eby et al., 2000; Eby et al., 2004). These antecedents are related to a diverse range of out-
comes for the protégé, such as decreased job satisfaction, turnover intentions, and stress
(Eby & Allen, 2002; Eby et al., 2004). As expected by the asymmetry presented above, nega-
tive eects have been shown to better predict protégésoutcomes than positive eects
(Eby et al., 2010). There is also support for negative eects on the part of the mentors.
Three domains for mentors were identied (Eby et al., 2008): protégé performance pro-
blems such as unwillingness to learn, interpersonal problems such as political game-
playing or dependency, and destructive relational patterns such as jealousy or damaged
reputation. Issues in these areas lead to reduced relationship quality between mentors
and protégés and can negatively aect protégésreceipt of mentoring and intentions to
leave the relationship (Eby et al., 2008; Eby & McManus, 2004).
Negative eects in psychotherapy
Multiple studies in psychotherapy have analysed and discussed the occurrence and causes
for the deterioration of the patientssymptoms (Barlow, 2010; Dimidjian & Hollon, 2010;
Lilienfeld, 2007). Other studies focus on the negative eects that go above and beyond
the patientsclinical symptoms that they experienced prior to the therapy. For instance,
the most frequent examples in behavioural therapy are patientsdiculties with insur-
ance, feeling forced or feeling hurt by the therapist, fear of stigmatisation, diculties in
making decisions without the therapist, or the partnersjealousy of the patientsrelation-
ship with the therapist (Nestoriuc & Rief, 2013). Furthermore, a substantial literature
demonstrates negative eects for therapists themselves (Linley & Joseph, 2007). These
negative eects have been investigated in the areas of burnout (e.g. Killian, 2008), com-
passion fatigue (e.g. Figley, 2002), secondary trauma (e.g. Jenkins & Baird, 2002), job
stress (e.g. Hellman, Morrison, & Abramowitz, 1987), stalking (e.g. Krammer, Stepan,
Baranyi, Kapfhammer, & Rothenhäusler, 2007), or psychological distress (e.g. Deighton,
Gurris, & Traue, 2007).
Negative eects in supervision
Studies also support the occurrence of negative eects in supervision. However, similar to
negative eects in mentoring, they are studied as negative experiences during the super-
vision process rather than outcomes of this process. In the eld of clinical supervision,
there is support for four categories of negative eects for supervisees (Ramos-Sánchez
et al., 2002): interpersonal relationship and style (such as the supervisor being judgmental
and disrespectful), supervision tasks and responsibilities (such as the supervisors
inadequate and outdated knowledge and skills), conceptualisation and theoretical orien-
tation (such as conicts regarding diagnosis), and ethics, legal and multicultural issues
(such as oensive statements about particular groups). These events were related to less
satisfaction with supervision and a worse relationship, not only with the supervisor but
also with the client (Ramos-Sánchez et al., 2002). These ndings provide additional
support for the possibility of negative eects in coaching supervision. For instance,
coaches most commonly complain about unskilled supervisors and untrained or overly
vocal peer coaches who dominated group supervision (Grant, 2012).
Summary and derivatives for coaching research
SET predicts negative eects for people in close relationships. We showed that this predic-
tion can hold true for dierent professional dyadic helping relationships. If negative eects
are expected theoretically and occur in other helping relationships, it seems likely that
they also happen in coaching. The ndings presented above demonstrate the specicity
of negative eects for each helping profession. However, it may not be suitable to transfer
the eects one-to-one from one helping profession to the other, as there are qualitative
dierences between these professions. For example, clients in psychotherapy are normally
mentally ill and may experience negative eects that dier from clients in coaching who
have better coping and self-regulation skills.
Therefore, research on specic negative eects that occur in coaching is necessary to
investigate which negative eects emerge, what predicts them, and which consequences
may develop for clients, coaches and organisations. We begin our literature investigation
for coaching with the denition of negative coaching eects.
Denition and conceptualisation of negative eects of coaching
In the literature, the term negative eect was dened in dierent articles. Clarication of
the concept and its background has not been conducted in detail so far. Moreover, there
are two dierent terms for the same concept prevalent in the literature. In some articles,
these eects are labelled as side eects (e.g. Graßmann & Schermuly, 2016 or Schermuly,
2018) and in others as negative eects (Graßmann, Schermuly, & Wach, 2018 or Kilburg,
2002). That is why a discussion of the term and its background is necessary and conducted
in this literature review. Coaching usually takes place in a triangle between the client,
coach and organisation. There are positive eects for all three parties, but negative
eects are also conceivable for them. We begin by dening negative eects for clients.
As already introduced above, negative eects are dened as harmful and unwanted
results for clients directly caused by coaching that occur parallel to, or after, coaching
(Schermuly et al., 2014, p. 19). With this denition Schermuly et al. conceptualise negative
eects close to side eects in the medical sciences. The eects must be unwanted, harmful
and directly connected to the coaching process to classify the coaching event as a nega-
tive eect. For example, during career coaching a client can experience a decrease in
meaning towards the job. This decrease must be experienced by the client as displeasing.
Furthermore, it must be unwanted. The coach has not deliberately produced this eect to
reach other coaching goals (for example, to prompt the clients to take the next step in
their career). Finally, the decrease in meaning must be connected to the coaching.
When the decrease in meaning was provoked by a change in the organisation or
because of a new supervisor, it is not classied as a negative eect of coaching. In
keeping with SET, Schermuly et al. (2014) do not equate negative eects with a failure of
coaching. Following the idea of side eects in the medical sciences they are seen as
regular concomitant eects of a coaching. In dierent coaching process models (see
e.g. Greif, 2013; Rauen, 2008, or Whitmore, 2002) it is regarded as coaching success
when clients reach their coaching goals during coaching. A coaching failure therefore
takes place when clients do not reach their coaching goals. Negative eects in the concep-
tualisation of side eects can also occur in successful coachings (just as a drug can be
eective and have side eects at the same time). For example, clients can reach all their
goals in a career coaching (e.g. to receive more clarity about the next career steps and
to understand which new skills are necessary for them) and yet they can feel less compe-
tent towards their job for a period of time or the job performance is uctuating because
the clients are distracted by the intensive coaching topics.
Negative eects can also occur for the other partners in the coaching process. A coach
can be unenthusiastic about a coaching topic or the coach can be stressed by a dicult
client. On the other hand, an organisation can suer negative coaching eects as well.
For example, an important employee resigns after the coaching and an organisation
has to compensate for the loss. For both perspectives (coach and organisation), the
three elements unwanted, harmful and direct connection to the intervention must
be fullled in order to classify an eect as negative. Thus, negative coaching eects for
coaches are harmful and unwanted results caused by coaching that occur parallel to, or
following, coaching (Schermuly, 2014, p. 169). Respectively, negative eects for organis-
ations are harmful and unwanted results for organisation that are caused by coaching
that occur parallel to, or following, coaching (Oellerich, 2016).
Clients, coaches and organisations do not possess continuously congruent interests. It is
therefore important to note that the same eect can be evaluated dierently due to the
diverse perspectives and interests of the involved parties. A layoof an important
employee because of coaching can be a negative eect for the organisation because
they incur costs to replace that client. At the same time, the client can be very pleased
about the layobecause the client might view the event as a positive opportunity for a
new life. For the coach, this situation might be ambivalent. The client is satised but
the organisation might blame the coach for the result. Also a dependency from the
client towards the coach can be evaluated dierently by the coach and client. If the organ-
isation is willing to pay for more sessions this might be a favourable situation for the coach.
The coach gains loyal clients and a higher sales volume. In contrast, for the organisation
and the clients this can have a severely negative eect. Therefore, it is very important
to consider the dierent perspectives before classifying an eect as negative.
Negative eects can vary in their severity. Severe negative eects are intense and long-
lasting harmful or unwanted results directly caused by coaching. As a result of a coaching
event, the job satisfaction of clients can marginally decrease for a short period. For about
two or three weeks the clients have to adapt to the new job situation provoked by the
coaching and may temporarily experience their jobs cognitively and emotionally less satis-
fying as before. But long-range eects are also conceivable. Clients can develop intense
dependencies toward their coaches, making it dicult to make their own decisions for
a long period of time. Taking a temporal perspective is also important because it is con-
ceivable that negative eects that are perceived at one point in time as negative can
be interpreted later in a more favourable light. For example, some clients seem to
develop conicts with their supervisors during a coaching process (see, for example,
Schermuly & Graßmann, 2016 for a qualitative analysis of such cases). Clients can learn
behaviours in coaching that are not welcomed by their supervisors (Oellerich, 2016). For
example, clients learn to set boundaries in their worklife and to say no. Because the
supervisors of the clients are not directly involved in the coaching, this can lead to
conict between clients and supervisors (Oellerich, 2016). This situation can stay negative,
or it is also possible that because of the conict the relationship can be newly dened with
both sides proting in the long term. So, the classication of an eect as negative (or posi-
tive) might also depend on the moment when someone is asked to provide information
about it.
Research on negative eects of coaching
In the previous section, negative eects of coaching were introduced for clients, coaches,
and organisations. Table 1 provides an overview of the studies that been conducted so far
and were integrated into this literature review. In the next section, we want to summarise
the results which are scattered in dierent articles. We organise the results in the sections
negative eects for clients, coaches and organisations. In these sections, we describe the
potential negative eects and their frequency, rst. Second, we present results for the
antecedents and consequences of these eects. This structure helps to understand simi-
larities but also dierences regarding the characteristics of negative eects for clients,
coaches and organisations in this literature review.
Research on negative eects of coaching for clients
Eect types and their frequencies
Until recently, only a few authors have proposed that coaching can theoretically exhibit
negative eects for clients, providing the rst examples in the context of coaching practice
(Berglas, 2002; Hodgetts, 2002; Kilburg, 2002). In his opinion paper, Berglas (2002) pro-
posed that there are some dangers related to coaching, such as coaches lacking rigorous
psychological training who consequently ignore or downplay deep-seated psychological
problems that coaches may not fully capture. He also mentioned that coaches may mis-
judge their power to inuence their clients and their organisations (Berglas, 2002). In his
book chapter, Hodgetts (2002) discussed what can go wrong in coaching and how the
management of the organisation may contribute to the harm inicted on clients and
organisations. For instance, he addressed errors in assessment, diagnosis, and strategy,
errors in selecting the right coach, and violations of condentiality (Hodgetts, 2002).
Kilburg (2002) added a list of possible negative eects for clients. He included rather
severe eects such as job loss, nancial losses, family problems, mental and physical pro-
blems, or reduced well-being and motivation losses. But the author points out that this list
of negative eects needs to be carefully proven (Kilburg, 2002).
Following this call to extend and prove the list of potential negative eects of coaching,
Schermuly et al. (2014, Study 1, Table 1)dened negative eects of coaching for clients
and analysed them empirically. Using qualitative interviews with 21 experienced
coaches from Germany, they developed a list of 30 potential negative eects for clients
that may occur according to their denition. They then provided a quantitative analysis,
Table 1. Studies on negative eects of coaching.
Number Authors
Negative eects
for whom Data source Sample size Research design Main ndings on negative eects
1. Schermuly et al.
Clients Coaches 21 (sample I)
and 123
(sample II)
Qualitative (sample I)
and quantitative
(sample II)
More than every second coach reported at least one negative eect for his
or her client in the last coaching. A list of potential negative eects for
clients was introduced, e.g. triggering of intense problems, decreased
job satisfaction, reduced meaning towards job.
2. Schermuly and
Coaches Coaches 20 Qualitative Negative eects of coaching for coaches were explored. Dierent negative
eects such as exhaustion, personal aection by a topic, or
disappointment about the long-term eects have been mentioned.
3. Schermuly (2014) Coaches Coaches 104 Quantitative The majority of coaches experienced at least one negative eect for him or
herself in the last coaching. Coaches who reported more negative eects
also reported less psychological empowerment, and perceived more
stress and emotional exhaustion.
4. Graßmann and
Clients Clients 111 Quantitative More than every second client reported at least one negative eect for
him or herself. The number of negative eects for clients was related to
lower relationship quality.
5. Schermuly and
Clients Coaches 8 Qualitative Most negative eects had a social orientation (e.g. conicts with
supervisors). The majority of negative eects were not necessary for goal
attainment, but could be managed during coaching.
6. Oellerich (2016) Organisations HR experts and
15 (sample I)
and 49
(sample II)
Qualitative (sample I),
quantitative (sample II)
Less than a fth of the organisational members reported negative eects
for the organisation. A list of potential negative eects for the
organisation was introduced, e.g. the client questioned too much after
coaching or had problems with the supervisor.
7. Graßmann and
Clients and
Clients and
29 Quantitative Every novice coach and the majority of clients reported at least one
negative eect for themselves. Coachesand clientsevaluations of
negative eects for clients were not related with each other. The
number of negative eects for clients was related to the number of
negative eects for coaches, but only when coaches evaluated them.
Coaches’‘ neuroticism strengthened this relationship, but supervision
seemed to prevent that coaches were aected by negative eects for
their clients.
Table 1. Continued.
Number Authors
Negative eects
for whom Data source Sample size Research design Main ndings on negative eects
8. Graßmann et al.
Clients and
Coaches 275 Quantitative Nearly every coach reported at least one negative eect for himself or
herself. A higher number of negative eects for coaches was related to a
higher number of negative eects for clients, low goal attainment, low
relationship quality, and low perceived competence as coach (as
perceived by the coaches). Coaches, who experienced more negative
eects for themselves, felt more stressed and sleep disruption at
measurement point II.
9. Schermuly (2018) Clients Coaches 19 (sample I)
and 115
(sample II)
Qualitative (sample I)
and quantitativ (sample
The main aim of the studies was to analyse coaching dropouts. Coaching
processes with dropouts were compared with coaching processes
without dropout. Dierences occurred in particular for four variables.
Clients who cancelled their coaching process were perceived as higher
in neuroticism and lower in change motivation. The relationship quality
was lower between coach and client and more negative eects occurred
for clients.
where 123 German coaches evaluated the occurrence of these negative eects in their last
completed coaching process. For instance, coaches frequently reported that in-depth pro-
blems were triggered that could not be dealt with, that their clientsoriginal goals were
modied without approval, or that the clients experienced their work as less meaningful
(Schermuly et al., 2014). Their overall results indicated, from the coachesperspective, that
negative eects for clients occur frequently in 57.4% of the coaching processes, with a
rather low intensity (M= 1.3; SD = 0.4; scale range from 0 to 4), and with an average of
2.1 eects per coaching (Schermuly et al., 2014). On average, the coaching processes
were rated by the coaches as very successful. These results show that negative eects
can still occur when coaching is perceived as successful.
In a book chapter, Schermuly (2016) classied the negative eects into six categories.
These categories are personal well-being, social integration, performance, evaluation of
the work role, monetary losses and other. These categories can be assigned to the four
categories that Jones et al. (2016) use in their meta-analysis to give positive coaching
eects a framework. Jones et al. apply a training outcome taxonomy by Kraiger, Ford,
and Salas (1993) and dierentiate between aective, cognitive, skill-based and results
oriented coaching outcomes. Personal well-being belongs to the aective category
while evaluation of the work role can be assigned to the cognitive category. Performance
and monetary losses belong to the results category while the category social integration
seems to possess a certain uniqueness for the negative coaching outcome spectrum.
In Table 2, the eects are listed with their frequency of occurrence. As the results show,
the well-being category in particular seems to be aected by coaching. For example, the
triggering of deeper problems that cannot be handled in coaching seems to occur fre-
quently. In a qualitative study (Schermuly & Graßmann, 2016; Study 5), a coach reported:
We came up with a topic where it was clear we had to work on that. And then the time and
budget frame that we have previously agreed upon with the management was exhausted,
and then I had to leave him alone with these topics in the end.
In addition, social integration can be negatively affected by a coaching, especially the
relationship with a supervisor or colleague. A coach in Study 5 reported:
we then worked hard on her self-condence and her poise, etc. and at the beginning she
was also very happy and thankful and liked it. And at some point it switched and she got
rather bad feedback from her colleagues. In the sense that she would just appear too self-
condent. (Schermuly & Graßmann, 2016, p. 40)
In the performance category, for example, performance ups and downs are reported fre-
quently. When clients learn new behaviours in coaching (for example, a new leadership
style) the application of these new behaviours can lead to performance problems in
daily practice. The work role category includes cognitions that are part of the psychologi-
cal empowerment construct (Spreitzer, 1995). At least temporarily, a coaching event can
conclude with lower feelings of competence, meaning and self-determination. All of
which can impact the job role. Effects in the category of monetary losses seem to occur
very seldom. This is also true for other severe negative effects that were postulated by
Kilburg (2002).
These preliminary empirical research ndings into negative eects are limited by the
fact that negative eects for clients were evaluated solely from the coachs perspective.
That is why Graßmann and Schermuly (2016, Study 4) asked German clients to rate their
coaching experiences with regard to negative eects. They used the same questionnaire
as Schermuly et al. (2014) in a new sample of 111 clients and collected the data at two
measurement points. More than half of the clients (67.6%) reported at least one negative
eect in their coaching process. On average, they experienced 3.46 (SD = 4.23) negative
eects, with low to medium-sized intensity (M= 1.70, SD = 0.94). Compared to prior
results when surveying coaches (Schermuly et al., 2014), clients reported a slightly
higher frequency and intensity of negative eects. The frequency order of the specic
negative eects was still comparable (ρ= 0.87), which demonstrates that clients and
coaches, in independent samples, frequently reported the same negative eects. Negative
eects that occurred infrequently in the coach sample (Schermuly et al., 2014) also
occurred infrequently in the client sample (Graßmann & Schermuly, 2016).
Table 2. Negative eects for coaching for clients (Schermuly & Graßmann, 2016).
1. Psychological
2. Social
integration 3. Performance
4. Evaluation of work
5. Material
losses 6. Other
Triggering of in-
depth problems
that could not be
dealt with (CO:
26%; CL: 23%)
supervisor (CO:
14%; CL: 18%)
uctuation of
(CO: 13%; CL:
experience of
meaningfulness of
the job (CO: 17%;
CL: 29%)
Change of
with worse
(CO: 3%; CL:
Change of goals
approval (CO:
17%; CL: 23%)
Decreased life
satisfaction (CO:
10%; CL: 22%)
towards the
coach (CO:
12%; CL: 10%)
Decreased job
(CO: 9%; CL:
Decreased job
satisfaction (CO:
13%; CL: 32%)
Job loss (CO:
2%; CL: 4%)
Lawsuit with
coach (CO: 1%;
CL: 0%)
Decreased work
life-balance (CO:
9%; CL: 20%)
quality: spouse
(C: 6%; CL: 6%)
Decreased job
(CO: 4%; CL:
Decreased feeling of
competence (CO:
10%; CL: 17%)
situation (CO:
2%; CL: 5%)
Access of third
parties to
(CO: 1%; CL:
Job anxiety (CO:
7%; CL: 5%)
quality: family
(CO: 6%; CL:
Decreased inuence
in work area (CO:
4%; CL: 7%)
symptoms of
disorder (CO: 2%;
CL: 5%)
colleagues (CO:
5%; CL: 16%)
Decreased self-
determination (CO:
4%; CL: 6%)
Development of a
disorder (CO: 2%;
CL: 2%)
(CO: 2%; CL:
consumption of
alcohol, or
medications (CO:
2%; CL: 5%)
Notes: CO = frequency from the coachesperspectives (Schermuly et al., 2014); CL = frequency from the clientsperspec-
tives (Graßmann & Schermuly, 2016).
Antecedents and consequences
Schermuly et al. (2014, Study 1) asked coaches to report the causes of any negative eects.
The results in Table 3 show that coaches perceive a high number of causes, with those on
the part of the clients more frequently reported then causes on the part of the coaches or
organisations. Coaches seem to hold their clients more responsible for negative eects
than themselves. Graßmann and Schermuly (2016, Study 4) collected dierent constructs
and tested them as antecedents in a regression analysis. The ndings indicated that low
relationship quality and low perceived competence as a coach were related to more nega-
tive eects. Contrary to expectations, clientsmotivation to change was not related to
more negative eects. The model explained 29.5% of the variance of negative eects of
coaching (including gender and age). Eight weeks later, only relationship quality predicted
the number of negative eects for clients.
Table 3. Perceived causes for negative eects of coaching for clients (Schermuly et al., 2014).
The negative eect(s) were due to that I . Frequency in %
had no supervision 10.7
had no elaborate knowledge about the organisation/work of the client 10.6
had to little professional expertise 10.5
was overworked 9.4
tried to treat a psychological disorder 9.2
had to little methodical expertise 7.2
did not inform the client enough about what to expect in the coaching process 6.1
did miss a psychological disorder 4.5
was mentally distressed 3.1
was intellectually too far superior to the client 3.0
could not empathise with the client 3.0
did exceed my authority 1.5
was not motivated enough 1.5
did not like the client 1.5
was not intelligent enough for the client 0.0
The negative eect(s) were due to that the client
had to little awareness of her/his problems 22.7
had wrong expectations towards the coaching 19.7
was mentally ill already before the coaching started 18.1
had no concrete coaching goal 16.4
withholded important information from me 12.1
was not motivated enough 6.2
did not like me 3.1
The negative eect(s) were due to that the organisation
did not provide opportunities to transfer what the client had learned 16.4
did not support me 9.6
forced the client into the coaching 9.5
used the coaching for the termination of the clients employment 4.1
interfered to frequently into the coaching 4.1
The negative eect(s) were due to that
not enough time was available 24.1
not enough nancial resources were available 17.9
to little or to imprecise diagnostic was conducted 16.7
coach and client were to dissimilar 2.6
the relationship quality was to low 2.5
Schermuly (2018/Study 9) conducted research on the causes for client dropout, which
is the premature termination of a coaching process by the client in respect to the agreed
number of coaching sessions and the agreed goals of the client.Inarst step, 19 German
coaches who had experienced a dropout were asked to list their perceived reasons for the
dropout. The most frequent causes of negative eects included being confronted with
serious problems with which the client did not want to deal. In a second study, Schermuly
(2018) compared 66 coachings that resulted in a client dropout with 49 that ended regu-
larly. Coaches perceived more negative eects in coachings with a dropout. These results
speak to client dropout as a potential consequence of negative eects in coaching.
Negative eects of coaching for coaches
Eect types and their frequencies
Similar to the procedure for negative eects for clients, Schermuly and Bohnhardt (2014,
Study 2) interviewed 20 experienced German coaches to identify possible negative eects
for coaches. In the next study (Schermuly, 2014, Study 3), 104 coaches evaluated the occur-
rence of these negative eects during the last completed coaching process and during
their career as a coach. The most frequent negative eects were that coaches were disap-
pointed about not being able to observe the long-term inuences of coaching, followed
by being personally aected by topics discussed during coaching, and being scared that
he or she would not full the role as a coach (Schermuly, 2014; see Table 4). Ninety-nine
percent of the coaches had already experienced negative eects of coaching for them-
selves. The ndings indicate that at least one negative eect was present in 94% of the
last coaching with an average of 5.9 (SD = 4.7) negative eects per coaching (Schermuly,
2014). Coaches seem to experience three (compared with Schermuly et al., 2014) or two
(compared with Graßmann & Schermuly, 2016) times more frequent negative eects
than clients.
Schermuly (2016) classied the explored eects into seven categories (see Table 4).
Four categories have the same titles as in Table 2 (personal well-being, social integration
and monetary losses, and the other category) but the integrated eects dier considerably
in the perspective of the coach (see Table 4). The other categories (displeasing feelings
toward the client, displeasing behaviour towards the coach, disappointment about the
results) are specically related to the coachs perspective.
Antecedents and consequences
The next step in this line of research was to explore the antecedents and consequences of
negative eects for coaches more thoroughly. The rst study was conducted by Graßmann
et al. (2018, Study 8) and was supported by the International Coach Federation (ICF). With
the help of the ICF, an international sample of 275 professional coaches was recruited.
Most coaches worked in the U.S. (34.2%) followed by coaches from Australia (13.8%),
and Great Britain (13.1%). This survey focused on the coachesperspective and asked
them to evaluate their last completed coaching process. A time-lagged design allowed
the investigation of the consequences of negative eects for coaches on their health
and well-being. Negative eects for coaches and the proposed antecedents were
measured at the rst time point, and coachesperceived stress and sleep disruption
eight weeks later. Ninety-six coaches participated at the second time point. Regarding
Table 4. Negative eects of coaching for coaches (Schermuly, 2016).
1. Psychological health 2. Social integration
3. Unpleasant
feelings towards
4. Unpleasant
behaviour towards
coach 5. Results-related disappointment 6. Material losses 7. Other
Being personally aected by
coaching topics (44.2%/78.8%)
Too little time for
family or oneself
Feelings of guilt
Sexual advances
Disappointment about not
observing the long-term
inuences (45.2%/77.9%)
Feeling underpaid
Diculties to be an
eective communicator
Being scared to not full the role
as a coach (40.4%/71.2%)
Diculties to open up
in private life
Anger (20.2%/
Insults (1%/9.6%) Frustration that the clients
problems could not be resolved
Problems with
payment (6.7%/
Diculties to maintain
personal boundaries
Insecurity (38.5%/80.8%) Loneliness (7.7%/
Boredom (12.5%/
Stalking (1%/2.9%) Disappointment about ineective
coaching (23.1%/68.3%)
Emotional exhaustion (26.9%/
Sexual attraction
Being threatened
Pressure because of high
expectations (29.8%/68.3%)
Feelings of love
Being scared to do something
wrong (28.8%/71.2%)
Stress (20.2%/61.5%)
Too high responsibility (19.2%/
Feeling burdened by
extraordinary topics (15.4%/
Diculties to refrain from
thinking about the clients
topics (15.4%/44.2%)
Feeling overchallenged (10.4%/
Note: The left percentage refers to the mean frequency in the last completed coaching process, the right refers to the coachescareers.
their last completed coaching process, the majority of coaches (94.9%) experienced at
least one negative eect for themselves with an average of 7.04 (SD = 4.78) negative
The number of negative eects for coaches was related to several antecedents in this
sample: low relationship quality, low goal attainment, and a higher number of negative
eects for clients as perceived by the coaches. Negative eects for coaches were also
negatively related to how competent coaches perceived themselves as coaches. Further-
more, coachesperceived competence explained why low goal attainment and negative
eects for clients were associated with more negative eects for coaches: Coaches felt
less competent because of them. In this study, the consequences of the negative
eects were analysed in a two-wave study design. Coaches who reported more negative
eects for themselves also reported more stress and sleep disruption eight weeks later.
These consequences of negative eects are in line with Schermuly (2014; Study 3). The
author collected additional variables and correlated them with the number of negative
eects per coaching. The number of negative eects was negatively related to coaches
psychological empowerment. The more negative eects the coaches perceived in the
last coaching, the less competence, meaning, self-determination and impact the
coaches experienced in their job. The number of negative eects was also positively
related to the emotional exhaustion and perceived stress of the coaches.
So far, research on negative eects has not been tested in experimental studies. Fur-
thermore, a direct link between clientsand coachesevaluations has not been tested.
Either clients participated in the studies or coaches, but not both together. Therefore, to
combine both perspectives in one experiment was the aim of the study conducted by
Graßmann and Schermuly (2017, Study 7). A German student sample was used to
achieve a randomised, controlled experiment. Masters students were trained as career
coaches and bachelor students were their clients. Twenty-nine coaching processes were
conducted. Supervision was the manipulated variable. Half of the coaches used group
supervision during coaching and the other half after the completion of the coaching. In
addition, coachesneuroticism was investigated as an antecedent. The majority of
clients (72.4%) experienced at least one negative eect (M= 2.41 negative eects per
coaching, SD = 4.32). The same percentage of coaches reported at least one negative
eect for their client (M= 1.72, SD = 1.69) and all coaches experienced at least one nega-
tive eect for themselves (M= 9.21, SD = 5.09). The number of negative eects for clients
was only related to negative eects for coaches when coaches evaluated them from their
own perspective. When clients evaluated them, there was no relationship to negative
eects for coaches. This nding emphasises how crucial it is to discriminate between
clientsand coachesperspectives. When coaches were high in neuroticism, this relation-
ship was even stronger. However, these relationships only occurred when coaches did not
use supervision during the coaching process. This is an empirical indication that using
supervision is benecial, especially for coaches who are high in neuroticism.
Negative eects of coaching for organisations
Eect types and their frequencies
Negative eects of coaching for organisations have not yet received the same attention as
the other two perspectives described above. To the best of our knowledge, only one study
examined negative eects for organisations so far. In a qualitative pilot study, Oellerich
(2016) surveyed 15 Human Resource experts and supervisors whose employees have
used coaching. She then explored negative eects for organisations quantitatively (N=
49) by using the same target group as in the preceding pilot study. She found that 17%
of them reported negative eects of coaching from the perspective of clientsorganis-
ations. Frequent negative eects were that the clients development did not t the organ-
isational conditions or that the client questioned too much after the coaching process.
Similar to negative eects for the client, problems with supervisors were seen as negative
eects. Apparently not only clients, but also organisations perceive these kinds of conicts
as negative results of coaching. Other negative eects were a loss of reputation, layo,or
From the organisationsperspective, the most frequent causes of negative eects were
when organisational members did not anticipate the consequences of when clients
achieve the coaching goal, when the coaching goal was not properly dened in the begin-
ning, and when the supervisor expected dierent coaching outcomes (Oellerich, 2016).
The results also indicate that the reputation of coaching, in terms of coaching culture, is
related to negative eects for the organisation. A better reputation was related to less
negative eects for organisations.
Methodological challenges in the research on negative eects of coaching
There are dierent methodological challenges when working on the negative eects of
coaching. The rst one is that negative eects must not be provoked directly, for
example, in an experimental setting. It is ethically forbidden to purposely stimulate nega-
tive eects for clients, coaches or organisations. This is an enormous dierence to the
research on positive coaching outcomes and makes it dicult to unquestionably prove
causes for negative eects. Negative eects can only be collected but should never be pro-
duced for research purpose.
The second challenge is the dynamic nature of negative eects. In the study of Scher-
muly et al. (2014), most of the negative eects did not last longer than four weeks. Accord-
ing to that study, the point in time when negative eects are collected is important. Also it
seems important to collect data at several points of time to capture possible changes in
negative eects (see, for example, Graßmann & Schermuly, 2016 or Graßmann et al., 2018).
The next challenge concerns the instruments with which negative eects are collected.
Negative eects of coaching are measured qualitatively or with questionnaires (see Table
1). Reliable and valid questionnaires are available for the eects on the side of the clients
and coaches but a valid questionnaire for organisations is still missing. This research gap
should be closed in the near future. Also there are no studies using physiological or other
more objective parameters to determine negative eects. For some negative eects (e.g.
performance uctuation or symptoms of a psychological disorder) more objective
measures seem to be possible but for others (e.g. meaning of work or job satisfaction)
self-reports seem to be sucient.
Finally, most of the studies used the number of negative eect as the dependent vari-
able. Graßmann et al. (2018) used the sum score and in a supplementary analysis the mean
intensity score of negative eects as the dependent variable. Both structural equation
models t the data well and the same hypotheses were conrmed. So both strategies
seem to be appropriate. But both strategies produce a problem, because the sum score
or the mean intensity score give no information about specic negative eects. Future
research should derive and test hypothesis that deal with specic negative eects or
eect classes. In order to reach this goal, bigger samples are necessary because many
speciceects occur only seldom (see Table 2).
Discussion and future research directions
This literature review provided the reader with a compendium of a new eld of research in
business coaching: Negative eects of coaching. The authors attempted to make clear that
negative eects are an important part of the professionalisation of the coaching practice,
as is research on how to deal with potential negative eects of coaching. Building knowl-
edge in this area closes the information gap between other professional helping relation-
ships, and negative eects for clients, coaches and organisations might be prevented. The
authors explained from a theoretical point of view why negative eects are likely to occur
in coaching. They presented a denition for negative eects, which is used in most of the
articles on this topic and claried its roots in the side eects tradition. Then the results for
clients, coaches and organisations from nine studies were summarised. These results were
gathered from studies with qualitative, cross-sectional, time-lagged and experimental
research orientations. In the following section, these results are discussed across these
single studies to gain general knowledge on negative eects of coaching. Afterwards, a
model for future research is derived (see Figure 1).
As the results presented in this literature review show, negative eects cannot be
equated with coaching failure. Negative eects also occur in very successful coaching
and appear to be regular parts of coaching processes. For example, negative eects for
Figure 1. Input-process-output model for future research.
clients occurred in approximately 50% of the coaching processes. A coach from Study 5
(Schermuly & Graßmann, 2016, p. 42) summarises it in the following words:
Actually, changes are never free of some, lets say, uncomfortable things and so my life experi-
ence has actually taught me that if something changes, the reactions change, too. Well, in that
sense, its only natural. I am not surprised at all when such a thing happens. So these side
eects, as you call it, is a very appropriate word. Everything has side eects.
These results and the statement of the coach align well with research on negative effects
in other helping relationships. SET introduced that negative effects are as natural as posi-
tive effects in close relationships. It is not surprising that this also reects the experiences
in helping relationships, such as psychotherapy, mentoring, supervision, and coaching. SET
also assumes that both partners of the relationship are affected. Research on negative
effects in coaching supports this position by showing that both clients and coaches can
experience negative effects. In addition, organisations may experience negative effects
of coaching. Thus, negative effects although often pathologised as taboo are as
natural in coaching as in other helping relationships.
Also, there appears to be a large variety of negative eects. Twenty-nine dierent nega-
tive eects have been identied for clients, 30 for coaches and 14 for organisations. Some
eects for clients such as the triggering of in-depth problems, a decrease of meaning
towards work, conicts with supervisors, or a dependency towards the coach occur
quite often whereas others are very rare. Interestingly, these very rare eects are relatively
similar to the eects that were postulated by Kilburg (2002) as possible negative eects of
coaching for clients. The very rare occurrence of severe eects such as nancial and job
losses, or severe mental problems, seem to be a good thing for the coaching profession.
The same is true for the intensity rates. Negative eects might be found in many coaching
processes, but when they do occur they have a rather low intensity.
The negative eects for clients and coaches were grouped into dierent categories.
Three categories have the same headings in Table 2 and Table 4. Clients and coaches
experience negative eects that aect their psychological well-being, social integration
and their nances. In the psychological well-being category, the majority of the eects
for both clients and coaches can be found. Coaching seems to be an intervention that
can improve, but also worsen, the mood of both parties involved. In coaching, change pro-
cesses are initiated. For some clients, these processes seem to be painful. Coaches and
clients can be, for example, both negatively aected by coaching topics. But some
eects in this category occur only for one partner. For example, the anxiety not to full
the expected role in coaching only happens for coaches as only coaches experience
this kind of role pressure. The role of the coach includes a high sense of responsibility
for clients and organisations (Kilburg, 2002), which seems to bother some coaches.
But there are also whole categories specic to coaches or clients. Coaches are con-
fronted with unpleasant feelings towards their clients and inappropriate behaviours of
the clients, as well as disappointment concerning the results of coaching. Coaches some-
times feel guilt or anger towards their clients, or they are stalked by their clients. However,
compared with the number of occurrences for psychotherapeutic colleagues (see, for
example, Krammer et al., 2007), stalking seems to be a very rare event for coaches. In con-
trast, coaches are often disappointed that they cannot observe the long-term results of
coaching. Rarely do coaches have follow up sessions with their clients and the opportunity
to see the long-term consequences of their job.
There are also very clear dierences between the occurrence rates for the parties
involved in coaching. Negative eects emerge most frequently for coaches. The lowest
occurrence rates are shown for organisations. The clearly higher rates for coaches might
be due to the special characteristics of the coaching job. Coaches have close interpersonal
contact with their clients and have to execute a great deal of relationship and emotional
work. Most of the eects in Table 4 fall into the category of psychological well-being. As
the burnout research shows (Maslach & Jackson, 1981), jobs with high socio-emotional
demands are vulnerable to emotional exhaustion, cynicism and reduced accomplishment.
For example, a study of psychotherapists from the U.S. showed that they experience sig-
nicantly more emotional exhaustion, anxiety and depression than their psychological col-
leagues in research (Radeke & Mahoney, 2000). At the same time, the title of coach and the
coaching job are not regulated (Grant, 2006). In contrast to the psychotherapy profession,
anyone can call themselves a coach and can easily become one. Many coaches have no, or
only a little, coaching training. The minority of coaches possess an academic psychology
background (Liljenstrand & Nebeker, 2008; Schermuly et al., 2014). This combination of
high socio-emotional demands and poor preparation for these challenges might be an
important factor in explaining why negative eects occur so often on the part of the
Another general nding of this literature review is that the perspectives of clients and
coaches seem to dier when they evaluate negative eects for clients. Comparing, for
example, the results from Schermuly et al. (2014/Study 1) and Graßmann and Schermuly
(2016/Study 4), clients perceive one third more negative eects per coaching than the
coaches, and the intensity is rated higher by the clients. This trend also occurs when
coaches and clients evaluate the same coaching (Graßmann & Schermuly, 2017/Study
7). Two explanations can be oered. On the one hand, coaches have fewer insights into
the feelings, cognitions and lives of their clients. They are not automatically aware of
conicts with supervisors, or how a problem aects a client after the client has left the
room, which can lead them to underestimate the frequency of negative eects. On the
other hand, the negative eects of coaching might be experienced as a failure by the
coach and therefore as a threat to the self-worth of the coaches. According to meta-ana-
lytic results (Campbell & Sedikides, 1999), self-threats can magnify the self-serving bias.
The self-serving bias might also be involved when coaches evaluate the causes for the
negative eects for clients. They blame their clients and not themselves.
As diverse as the negative eects are the causes. Two causes have received particular
attention in the research so far: relationship quality and supervision. Bluckert (2005, p. 336)
states that the coaching relationship is not just a critical success factor, but arguably the
critical success factor in successful coaching outcomes. This seems to also be true for the
development of negative eects. Relationship quality appears as a consistent protective
factor acting to prevent negative eects of coaching for clients (Bozer & Jones, 2018;
Graßmann & Schermuly, 2016). The more positive the relationship quality experienced
between coach and client the fewer negative eects for clients occur in coaching. This
is in line with meta-analytic research (Graßmann et al., 2017) that shows that relationship
quality has manifold positive outcomes on desired coaching outcomes. More complex is
the relationship between supervision and negative eects. Of the coaches that perceived a
negative eect on the part of the client, 10.6% of the coaches attributed this negative
eect to a lack of supervision (Schermuly et al., 2014). There is also a small relationship
between the amount of supervision on the job and the perception of negative eects
of coaching for coaches (Schermuly, 2014). But as the results from Graßmann and Scher-
muly (2017) show, primarily young coaches high in neuroticism prot from supervision.
Negative eects can occur for clients, coaches and organisations, and research has indi-
cated that these eects may be related to each other. Finally, the interplay between the
dierent perspectives is discussed. Coaches experienced more negative eects for them-
selves when they felt that their clients experienced negative eects of their work
(Graßmann & Schermuly, 2017/Study 7; Graßmann et al., 2018/Study 8). Thus, negative
eects for clients seem to be stressful for coaches and aect their health and well-
being (Graßmann et al., 2018). This is in line with the assumption of SET, that both partners
are aected by their relationship. As this relationship is based on exchanges in both direc-
tions, it is not surprising that one party can aect the other. What has been missing until
now is how negative eects for organisations come about. Oellerich (2016) suggested that
negative eects for clients precede negative eects for coaches, but empirical ndings are
not available yet to support this idea.
Future research
As mentioned above, the causes of negative eects seem to be diverse. More than 30
dierent causes for negative eects were mentioned by the coaches in Study 1 (Schermuly
et al., 2014, see Table 3). Only for relationship quality and supervision were results found in
more than one study. Future research should use the list of causes and develop theoreti-
cally based approaches to test the inuence of these causes on negative eects of coach-
ing for clients, coaches and organisations. An inputprocessoutput model (see Figure 1)
could guide future research. According to Greif (2013), there should be a dierentiation
between inputs and process variables. These two pathways should be tested to under-
stand how input variables such as client variables (e.g. transfer motivation or readiness
to change), coach variables (e.g. coachesexpertise or capability) or organisational vari-
ables (e.g. transfer climate in the organisation) aect negative eects. The inputs might
directly inuence negative eects. For example, the factual or the perceived expertise
of the coach might directly inuence the occurrence of negative eects. But it is also poss-
ible that expertise is connected to process variables such as relationship quality (e.g. the
client cannot accept the coach as an expert causing trust and sympathy issues) that there-
fore function as a mediator between the input variables and the negative eects. In their
literature review, Bozer and Jones (2018) identied seven core constructs that inuence
coaching eectiveness. These variables were coaching motivation, self-ecacy, goal orien-
tation, trust, interpersonal attraction, supervisory support and feedback intervention. They
are all candidates for the rst box in Figure 1 and should be tested in future research as
antecedents for negative eects.
Future research should also analyse the possibility of a feedback loop between the
emergence of negative eects and process variables. There is no quantitative research
available to understand how negative eects change the coaching process. More research
into the dynamic reciprocity between negative eects and process variables is necessary.
We know, for example, that a low relationship quality can lead to the occurrence of
negative eects, but this relationship may be bidirectional. In Study 5 (Schermuly &
Graßmann, 2016), one client experienced conict with colleagues due to the coaching.
The coach and the client spoke about this negative eect and the client accused the
coach of making everything worse. The coach reported, She was then, yes, really mad
at me That was the worst last session I ever had(Schermuly & Graßmann, 2016, p. 41).
Furthermore, the stability of the eects should receive more research attention (see
Figure 1 last box). Graßmann and Schermuly (2016/Study 4) showed that there is a high
correlation between two measurement points in time. But it is necessary to gain more con-
crete knowledge about how long dierent negative eects persist. Also, it is an open ques-
tion whether negative eects can turn into positive eects. For example, after some time
has passed, problems that were triggered by the coaching could be solved leading to a
positive evaluation of that issue.
Finally, moderators for the paths in Figure 1 should be tested. Conceivably there are
variables that mitigate or strengthen the associations in Figure 1. For example, the associ-
ation between relationship quality and negative eects might be, for example, strengthened
by personality factors. For instance, emotionally unstable clients might develop more nega-
tive eects when they experience a low relationship quality towards the coach because they
are more threatened by a dysfunctional relationship. The stability of the negative eects
(path between t1andt2) might be, for example, mitigated by a follow-up session in
which coach and client reect upon the outcomes since completion of coaching.
Beyond the questions directly derived from the model in Figure 1, more research is
necessary in other elds as well. So far, research has only investigated the number of nega-
tive eects by summing up all the negative eects that have been reported. Given that the
previous studies found meaningful antecedents, future research should test if they dier in
their importance for specic clusters of negative eects. This would help to understand
how causes and eects are connected in more detail.
In Tables 2 and 4, a lot of dierent negative eects are listed. These eects have been
proven to occur in coaching but the authors do not claim that this list covers all the nega-
tive eects that are possible. Future research should continue to add to the research to
complete that list. For example, conicts between coach and client or theoretical disagree-
ments might be potential candidates.
Dierent methodical designs and approaches such as experiments and qualitative
interviews have been conducted so far. However, questionnaires have clearly dominated
the research presented above. Future research should explore other techniques for the
process variables in particular. For example, Ianiro, Schermuly, and Kaueld (2013) used
the Discussion Coding System (DCS, Schermuly, & Scholl, 2012) to analyse in the act for
act coding how nonverbal behaviours from coaches and clients aect dierent coaching
outcomes. This procedure could be used to identify how specic verbal or nonverbal beha-
viours that are exchanged between coaches and clients are predictive of negative eects
of coaching.
There is also a knowledge gap between research on negative eects for clients and
coaches on the one side and negative eects for organisations on the other. Only one
study with two subsamples has analysed negative eects of coaching for organisations
so far. Organisations have a crucial position in the future of the coaching market. Globally,
53% of all clients are sponsored by a third party, such as the clientsorganisations (ICF,
2016). If organisations experience too many negative eects of coaching, and coaching
research has nothing to oer about how these eects can be prevented, this might have
serious consequences for the market.
Another worthwhile addition of the research is the expectation level of the negative
eects. If a client knows that a negative eect can be expected it gives the client more
control over the situation. For example, clients can prepare for the negative eect together
with the coach and develop coping strategies. In the light of the Demand-Control Model
(DCM; Karasek, 1979), a negative eect is a demand, which can be buered by control.
According to that, clients that expect a negative eect and hereby experience more
control should be less strained by the eect. Future research should test this hypothesis
and collect data concerning the expectation level of the negative eects. This variable
should be gathered on the side of the coaches and the clients. Particular attention
should be paid to situations where the expectations between coach and client dier.
Finally, it is important to increase the number and the cultural background of the
research groups examining the topic of negative eects of coaching. The research
started in the U.S. with a book chapter published by Richard R. Kilburg (2002). Afterwards,
this topic was picked up by German research groups. Except for the international study
conducted by Graßmann and Schermuly (2017), all study results are based on German
samples. It is time that research on negative eects of coaching reaches international sig-
nicance and study results are validated across dierent countries and coaching markets.
Practical implications
In the introduction, we cited Kilburg (2002) who stated at the beginning of the new mil-
lennium that there is nothing available to help coaches face the problems associated with
negative coaching eects. Fifteen years later there is something available. And this some-
thingshould be integrated into the training of coaches or the supervision processes.
Coaches should know how frequently negative eects can occur in coaching processes.
This knowledge allows coaches to inform their clients about potential negative eects.
They should also be informed about the various kinds of negative eects. This sensitisation
might help to identify negative eects earlier in the coaching process. The time gained
might help mitigate the negative eects or at least oer the opportunity to work with
the problems during the coaching. The knowledge about negative eects for coaches
might help to support the well-being and self-care of coaches, as well as give them an
appreciation that some eects are normal parts of their coaching job. On a British blog
( the results of Schermuly (2014) were discussed intensively,
and one coach wrote,
I had not necessarily considered what caused me to feel exhausted after a dicult week, but
reading the list above provides an awareness of the triggers. Until now, when working inde-
pendently and in isolation, I sometimes believe that feelings such as the ones above only
relate to me But in a way, I feel reassured that it is not just me, and that these views are
shared by others, and so it is something about the nature of the role of a coach.
As this case shows, the knowledge about negative effects can help coaches handle nega-
tive effects.
Coaching associations could act as multiplicators for this topic. They could inform their
members about this topic but also give support when their members need help. The
results presented above suggest that supervision and i might be a support for coaches.
Coaches can benet from supervision, especially if the coach scores rather low on
emotional stability. For this supervision and intervision support coaching associations
might be the best contact and distributor.
To prevent negative eects for clients, coaches can work on the quality of the relationship
with their clients. This factor, in particular, seems to be benecial in preventing negative
eects for both clients and coaches. Coaches should regularly assess their relationship
quality, together with their clients, and try to improve it if necessary. As coaches seem to
use supervision when dealing with dicult cases (Grant, 2012), this may be good advice for
coaches who encounter negative eects for their clients or themselves. At the very least,
supervision seemed to help coaches to be less aected by negative eects from their clients.
Kilburg perceived negative eects as the taboo topic in executive coaching. A taboo is a
subject that must be avoided. We believe that with help of the summarised research this
avoidance might be overcome. We trust that negative eects of coaching lose their scari-
ness and become a topic of conversation between coaches and between coaches and
their clients. When negative eects leave the dark new practical and scientic knowledge
can be produced and negative eects can be dealt with in a way that our clients, but also
we as coaches, can benet from.
Notes on contributors
Carsten C. Schermuly is a professor of business psychology at SRH
University of Applied Sciences Berlin, Germany. His main research
focuses on new work from a psychological perspective (psychological
empowerment), interaction processes and diversity in teams, and
quality of personnel development and selection.
Carolin Graßmann is a research associate at SRH University of Applied
Sciences Berlin, Germany. Her research focuses on the negative effects
of coaching interventions on clients and coaches, which factors deter-
mine these effects, and how they can be prevented.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
Barlow, D. H. (2010). Negative eects from psychological treatments: A perspective. American
Psychologist,65,1320. doi:10.1037/a0015643
Berglas, S. (2002). The very real dangers of executive coaching. Harvard Business Review,80,8692.
Blau, P. M. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. New York: Wiley.
Bluckert, P. (2005). Critical factors in executive coaching the coaching relationship. Industrial and
Commercial Training,37, 336340. doi:10.1108/00197850510626785
Bozer, G., & Jones, R. J. (2018). Understanding the factors that determine workplace coaching eec-
tiveness: A systematic literature review. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology,
27(3), 342361. doi:10.1080/1359432X.2018.1446946
Campbell, W. K., & Sedikides, C. (1999). Self-threat magnies the self-serving bias: A meta-analytic
integration. Review of General Psychology,3,2343.
Deighton, R. M. K., Gurris, N., & Traue, H. (2007). Factors aecting burnout and compassion fatigue in
psychotherapists treating torture survivors: Is the therapists attitude to working through trauma
relevant? Journal of Traumatic Stress,20,6375. doi:10.1002/jts.20180
Dimidjian, S., & Hollon, S. D. (2010). How would we know if psychotherapy were harmful? American
Psychologist,65,2133. doi:10.1037/a0017299
Duck, S., & Wood, J. T. (1995). For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer: The rough and the smooth of
relationships. In S. Duck & J. T. Wood (Eds.), Confronting relationship challenges (pp. 121).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Eby, L. T., & Allen, T. D. (2002). Further investigation of protégésnegative mentoring experiences.
Group and Organization Management,27, 456479. doi:10.1177/ 1059601102238357
Eby, L. T., Butts, M. M., Durley, J., & Ragins, B. R. (2010). Are bad experiences stronger than good ones
in mentoring relationships? Evidence from the protégé and mentor perspective. Journal of
Vocational Behavior,77,8192. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2010.02.010
Eby, L. T., Butts, M., Lockwood, A., & Simon, S. A. (2004). Protégés negative mentoring experiences:
Construct development and nomological validation. Personnel Psychology,57(2), 411447.
Eby, L. T., Durley, J. R., Evans, S. C., & Ragins, B. R. (2008). Mentorsperceptions of negative mentoring
experiences: Scale development and nomological validation. Journal of Applied Psychology,93,
358373. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.93.2.358
Eby, L. T., & McManus, S. E. (2004). The protégés role in negative mentoring experiences. Journal of
Vocational Behavior,65, 255275. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2003.07.001
Eby, L. T., McManus, S. E., Simon, S. A., & Russell, J. E. (2000). The proteges perspective regarding
negative mentoring experiences: The development of a taxonomy. Journal of Vocational
Behavior,57,4261. doi:10.1006/jvbe.1999.1726
Fietze, B. (2014). Coaching auf dem Weg zur profession? Eine professionssoziologische Einordnung.
Organisationsberatung, Supervision, Coaching,21, 279294.
Figley, C. R. (2002). Compassion fatigue: Psychotherapistschronic lack of self care. Journal of Clinical
Psychology,58, 14331441. doi:10.1002/jclp.10090
Fink, A. (1998). Conducting research literature reviews: From paper to the internet. Thousand Oaks, CA:
Foa, U. G., & Foa, E. B. (1980). Resource theory: Interpersonal behaviour as exchange. In K. J. Gergen,
M. S. Greenberg, & R. H. Willis (Eds.), Social exchange: Advances in theory and research (pp. 77101).
New York: Plenum.
Grant, A. M. (2006). A personal perspective on professional coaching and the development of coach-
ing psychology. International Coaching Psychology Review,1,1220.
Grant, A. M. (2007). Enhancing coaching skills and emotional intelligence through training. Industrial
and Commercial Training,39, 257266. doi:10.1108/00197850710761945
Grant, A. M. (2012). Australian coachesviews on coaching supervision: A study with implications for
Australian coach education, training and practice. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching
and Mentoring,10,1
Grant, A. M. (2017). Clarifying the complexity of evidence-based approaches to coaching:
Frameworks and models that will delight! Presentation at the 10th coaching in leadership and
healthcare conference. Harvard Medical School, Institute of Coaching.
Grant, A. M., & Cavanagh, M. J. (2004). Toward a profession of coaching: Sixty-ve years of progress
and challenges for the future. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring,
Graßmann, C., & Schermuly, C. C. (2016). Side eects of business coaching and their predictors from
the coacheesperspective. Journal of Personnel Psychology,15, 152163. doi:10.1027/1866-5888/
Graßmann, C., & Schermuly, C. C. (2017). The role of neuroticism and supervision in the relationship
between negative eects for clients and novice coaches. Coaching: An International Journal of
Theory, Research and Practice,11,7488. doi:10.1080/17521882.2017.1381755
Graßmann, C., Schermuly, C. C., & Wach, D. (2018). Potential antecedents and consequences of nega-
tive eects for coaches. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research & Practice.doi:10.
Graßmann, C., Schölmerich, F., & Schermuly, C. C. (2017, October). The relationship between working
alliance and client outcomes in coaching: A meta-analytic review. Poster presentation at the 10th
annual coaching in leadership and healthcare conference of the Institute of coaching, Boston, MA:
Harvard Medical School.
Gray, D. E. (2011). Journeys towards the professionalisation of coaching: Dilemmas, dialogues and
decisions along the global pathway. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and
Practice,4(1), 419. doi:10.1080/17521882.2010.550896
Greif, S. (2013). Conducting organizational based evaluations of coaching and mentoring programs.
In J. Passmore, D. B. Peterson, & T. Freire (Eds.), The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of the psychology of
coaching and mentoring (pp. 445470). Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.
Grover, S., & Furnham, A. (2016). Coaching as a developmental intervention in organisations: A sys-
tematic review of its eectiveness and the mechanisms underlying it. PLoS ONE,11, e0159137.
Hart, C. (2018). Doing a literature review: Releasing the research imagination. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Hellman, I. D., Morrison, T. L., & Abramowitz, S. I. (1987). Therapist experience and the stresses of psy-
chotherapeutic work. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training,24, 171177. doi:10.1037/
Hodgetts, W. H. (2002). Using executive coaching in organizations: What can go wrong (and how to
prevent it). In C. Fitzgerald & J. G. Berger (Eds.), Executive coaching: Practices and perspectives (pp.
203223). Palo Alto, CA: Davis-Black.
Homans, G. C. (1961). Social behaviour: Its elementary forms. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.
Ianiro, P. M., Schermuly, C. C., & Kaueld, S. (2013). Why interpersonal aliation and dominance
matter: An interaction analysis of the coach-client relationship. Coaching: An International
Journal of Theory, Research & Practice,6,2546. doi:10.1080/17521882.2012.740489
ICF. (2016). Global coaching study. Retrieved September 29, 2018, from
Jenkins, S. R., & Baird, S. (2002). Secondary traumatic stress and vicarious trauma: A validational study.
Journal of Traumatic Stress,15, 423432. doi:10.1023/A:1020193526843
Jones, R. J., Woods, S. A., & Guillaume, Y. R. F. (2015). The eectiveness of workplace coaching: A meta-
analysis of learning and performance outcomes from coaching. Journal of Occupational and
Organizational Psychology,89, 249277. doi:10.1111/joop.12119
Karasek, R. A. Jr. (1979). Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: Implications for job
redesign. Administrative Science Quarterly,24, 285308.
Kilburg, R. R. (1996). Toward a conceptual understanding and denition of executive coaching.
Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research,48, 134144. doi:10.1037/1061-4087.48.2.134
Kilburg, R. R. (2002). Failure and negative outcomes: The taboo topic in executive coaching. In C.
Fitzgerald & J. G. Berger (Eds.), Executive coaching: Practices and perspectives (pp. 283301). Palo
Alto, CA: Davis-Black.
Killian, K. D. (2008). Helping till it hurts? A multimethod study of compassion fatigue, burnout, and
self-care in clinicians working with trauma survivors. Traumatology,14,3244. doi:10.1177/
Kraiger, K., Ford, J. K., & Salas, E. D. (1993). Application of cognitive, skill-based, and aective theories
of learning outcomes to new methods of training evaluation. Journal of Applied Psychology,78,
311328. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.78.2.311
Krammer, A., Stepan, A., Baranyi, A., Kapfhammer, H. P., & Rothenhäusler, H. B. (2007). Auswirkung von
Stalking auf Psychiater, Psychotherapeuten und Psychologen [Consequences of stalking on psy-
chiatrists, psychotherapists, and psychologists). Der Nervenarzt,78,809817. doi:10.1007/s0015-
Labianca, G., & Brass, D. J. (2006). Exploring the social ledger: Negative relationships and negative
asymmetry in social networks in organizations. Academy of Management Review,31, 596614.
Lilienfeld, S. (2007). Psychological treatments that cause harm. Perspectives on Psychological Science,
2,5370. doi:10.1111/ j.1745-6916.2007.00029.x
Liljenstrand, A. M., & Nebeker, D. M. (2008). Coaching services: A look at coaches, clients, and prac-
tices. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research,60,5777. doi:10.1037/1065-9293.60.
Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2007). Therapy work and therapistspositive and negative wellbeing.
Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology,26, 385403. doi:10.1521/jscp.2007.26.3.385
Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1981). The measurement of experienced burnout. Journal of
Organizational Behavior,2,99113. doi:10.1002/job.4030020205
Nestoriuc, Y., & Rief, W. (2013). Risiken und Nebenwirkungen von Verhaltenstherapie. In M. Linden &
B. Strauß (Eds.), Risiken und Nebenwirkungen von Psychotherapie (pp. 5974). Berlin: Medizinisch
Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft.
Oellerich, K. (2016). Negative Eekte von Coaching und ihre Ursachen aus der Perspektive der
Organisation: Eine Mixed Methods-Studie (Doctoral thesis). Department of Humanities, University
of Kassel. doi:10.19211/KUP9783737603034
Radeke, J. T., & Mahoney, M. J. (2000). Comparing the personal lives of psychotherapists and research
psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice,31(1), 8284.
Ramos-Sánchez, L., Esnil, E., Goodwin, A., Riggs, S., Touster, L. O., Wright, L. K., Rodolfa, E. (2002).
Negative supervisory events: Eects on supervision and supervisory alliance. Professional
Psychology: Research and Practice,33, 197202. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.33.2.197
Rauen, C. (2008). Coaching. Göttingen: Hogrefe.
Schermuly, C. C. (2014). Negative eects of coaching for coaches: An explorative study. International
Coaching Psychology Review,9, 167182.
Schermuly, C. C. (2016). Nebenwirkungen von Coaching für Klienten Denition, Häugkeiten,
Kategorien und Ursachen [Side eects of coaching for clients denitions, frequencies and
causes]. In C. Triebel, J. Heller, B. Hauser, & A. Koch (Hrsg.) (Eds.), Qualität im Coaching (pp. 205
214). Berlin: Springer.
Schermuly, C. C. (2018). Client dropout from business coaching. Consulting Psychology Journal:
Practice and Research,70(3), 250267. doi:10.1037/cpb0000112
Schermuly, C. C., & Bohnhardt, F. (2014). Und wer coacht die Coaches? [And who coaches the
coaches?]. Organisationsberatung, Supervision, Coaching,21,5569.
Schermuly, C. C., & Graßmann, C. (2016). Die Analyse von Nebenwirkungen von Coaching für
Klienten aus einer qualitativen Perspektive [The analysis of side eects of coaching for clients
from a qualitative perspective]. Coaching Theorie & Praxis,2,3347. doi:10.1365/s40896-016-
Schermuly, C. C., Schermuly-Haupt, M. L., Schölmerich, F., & Rauterberg, H. (2014). Zu Risiken
und Nebenwirkungen lesen Sie …– Negative Eekte von Coaching [For risks and side eects
read ... negative eects of coaching]. Zeitschrift für Arbeits- und Organisationspsychologie,58,
1733. doi:10.1026/ 0932-4089/a000129
Schermuly, C. C., & Scholl, W. (2012). The discussion coding system (DCS): A new instrument for ana-
lyzing communication processes. Communication Methods and Measures,6,1240. doi:10.1080/
Seuring, S., & Müller, M. (2008). From a literature review to a conceptual framework for sustainable
supply chain management. Journal of Cleaner Production,16(15), 16991710. doi:10.1016/j.
Sonesh, S. C., Coultas, C. W., Lacerenza, C. N., Marlow, S. L., Benishek, L. E., & Salas, E. (2015). The power
of coaching: A meta-analytic investigation. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research
and Practice,8,7395. doi:10.1080/17521882.2015.1071418
Spreitzer, G. M. (1995). Psychological empowerment in the workplace: Dimensions, measurement,
and validation. Academy of Management Journal,38, 14421465. doi:10.2307/256865
Taylor, S. E. (1991). Asymmetrical eects of positive and negative events: The mobilization-minimiz-
ation hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin,110,6785. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.110.1.67
Theeboom, T., Beersma, B., & van Vianen, A. E. M. (2014). Does coaching work? A meta-analysis on the
eects of coaching on individual level outcomes in an organizational context. The Journal of
Positive Psychology,9,118. doi:10.1080/17439760.2013.837499
Thibaut, J. W., & Kelley, H. H. (1959). The social psychology of groups. New York: Wiley.
Whitmore, J. (2002). Coaching for performance. Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey.
... Initial empirical evidence suggests that the beginning of a coaching engagement is particularly important for the success of the entire coaching, especially as a basis for establishing a sound working alliance between coach and coachee (Ianiro et al., 2013). Moreover, the coaching literature highlights the importance of (1) identifying whether coaching or an alternative format is the appropriate type of support for a client (e.g., Grant & Green, 2018), (2) narrowing the focus of the coaching engagement in order to avoid negative effects (e.g., Schermuly & Graßmann, 2019), and (3) clarifying the contract, possibly by also involving other organisational stakeholders (e.g., Burger & Van Coller-Peter, 2019). More recently, it has been emphasised that WPC needs to be considered as a contextualised rather than a dyadic intervention, shaped by and embedded in its social, in particular its organisational context (Athanasopoulou & Dopson, 2018). ...
... In summary, the initial exploration seems to be of great importance in achieving positive coaching outcomes (e.g., Ianiro et al., 2013;Schermuly & Graßmann, 2019) and reducing the probability of negative effects for coachees (Schermuly & Graßmann, 2019) and the organisation (Oellerich, 2016). However, research on this important phase is scarce. ...
... In summary, the initial exploration seems to be of great importance in achieving positive coaching outcomes (e.g., Ianiro et al., 2013;Schermuly & Graßmann, 2019) and reducing the probability of negative effects for coachees (Schermuly & Graßmann, 2019) and the organisation (Oellerich, 2016). However, research on this important phase is scarce. ...
Coaching is increasingly used as an HRD intervention. Initial research suggests the importance of coaching behaviour, especially at the beginning of a coaching engagement, for coaching success. However, findings are scarce as to how coaches proceed during the initial phase in coaching and recent reviews therefore call for research that investigates how coaches determine the focus of the coaching intervention. Therefore, our study aimed to answer the questions of what and how regarding coaches’ approach to the ‘initial exploration’. We conducted 20 semi-structured interviews with workplace coaches. Qualitative content analysis revealed a broad range of contents addressed, methods applied, and principles that guide coaches during the initial exploration. Moreover, we identified specific patterns for categorising coaches’ approaches. Concerning the content coaches address, we identified three dimensions: coachees’ areas of life (private vs. professional, with the latter including individual vs. social vs. organisational aspects), temporal focus (past, present, future), and perspective (solution- vs. problem-orientation). We integrate our findings into a taxonomy of the initial exploration in coaching and thereby provide a basis for future research as well as a guide for reflection and decision-making for coaches, coachees, and organisational sponsors.
... As shown in this review of developments in the 21st century, the fields of coaching and mentoring have must in common with each other and both are influenced by modern technology. Indeed in reaction to the lack of accepted identifiable and distinct skills for coaches and mentors (Hill, 2010), the first steps to close the research gap between coaching and mentoring have been made (Abravanel, 2018;Schermuly & Graßmann, 2018). ...
... This paper suggests that further research may need to include coaching and mentoring as related concepts and not focus on the artificial distinctions between these two concepts. This is in line with the directions set out by Schermuly & Graßmann (2018). ...
Full-text available
Interest in coaching and mentoring has increased over the past decades. However, confusion about what is meant in practice and in the literature and the lack of sound definitions makes it hard to research the antecedents and outcomes of both concepts. We show that coaching and mentoring share a lot, but they are often treated as separate fields. By developing models that combine the concepts of coaching and mentoring, we aim to provide a base for more rigorous research. Such a base hopefully encourages researchers and practitioners of coaching and mentoring to work together instead of struggling against each other.
... Coaches should be cognisant of any distress that may be brought into the sessions or triggered in sessions, and should deal with it sensitively (Vaugh Smith, 2019). Questionnaire studies of business coaching have found that triggering of issues in coaching, which could not be dealt with by the coach, was a negative consequence for 26% of coaches (Schermuly, Schermuly-Haupt, Schoelmerich & Rautenberg et al., 2014;Schermuly & Graßmann, 2019) and 23.4% of coachees (Graßmann & Schermuly, 2016;Schermuly & Graßmann, 2019). ...
... Coaches should be cognisant of any distress that may be brought into the sessions or triggered in sessions, and should deal with it sensitively (Vaugh Smith, 2019). Questionnaire studies of business coaching have found that triggering of issues in coaching, which could not be dealt with by the coach, was a negative consequence for 26% of coaches (Schermuly, Schermuly-Haupt, Schoelmerich & Rautenberg et al., 2014;Schermuly & Graßmann, 2019) and 23.4% of coachees (Graßmann & Schermuly, 2016;Schermuly & Graßmann, 2019). ...
Childlessness may affect a woman’s well-being and sense of identity, and cause feelings of loss and grief. I found no research on coaching for childless women. Using heuristic inquiry, I explored the experience of coaching in six participants (co-researchers), including myself. Findings suggest that coaching helped women cope with negative self– and societal– narratives; accept and change their perspective on a life without children; picture alternative futures; build confidence; achieve goals and rediscover themselves. Some women felt vulnerable and coach understanding, support and care were important, as were trust and co-creation. The research highlights the potential utility of coaching amongst childless women.
... We suggested the emergence of new phase of research exploring individual, exceptions and negative effects of coaching (Passmore, 2016;Passmore and Theeboom, 2016). This has started to happen with work by Schermuly and Grabmann (2018) and De Hann (2021). We have linked research papers to the model of coach development in Table 4 and have extended it to create 10 phases. ...
Full-text available
This conceptual paper explores the development of coaching, as an expression of applied positive psychology. It argues that coaching is a positive psychology dialogue which has probably existed since the emergence of sophisticated forms of language, but only in the past few 1000years, has evidence emerged of its use as a deliberate practice to enhance learning. In the past 50years, this dialectic tool has been professionalised, through the emergence of professional bodies, and the introduction of formal training and certification. In considering the development of the coaching industry, we have used Rostow’s model of sector development to reflect on future possible pathways and the changes in the coaching industry with the clothing sector, to understand possible futures. We have offered a five-stage model to conceptualise this pathway of development. Using this insight, we have further reviewed past research and predicted future pathways for coaching research, based on a new ten-phase model of coaching research.
... Literature on coaching consistently shows that not all coachees respond in the same way (Jones et al., 2019;McKenna & Davis, 2009). Traits can play an important role in an individual's motivation to engage in developmental interventions (Heslin et al., 2006;Jones et al., 2014;Klockner & Hicks, 2008;Sue-Chan et al., 2012), and even in moderating coaching effectiveness (Grant, 2012;Jones et al. 2019;Schermuly & Graßmann, 2019). Individual implicit person theory (IPT; Dweck & Leggett, 1988), asserts that individuals differ in how they view their abilities. ...
Coaching literature assumes that people undergo personal change through coaching. We contend that different types of change may occur with coaching and investigate whether this is the case in reflection (a key competence in coaching). Results from our sample of 61 coachees indicate that three types of change (alpha, beta, gamma) are observed across participants. Alpha change refers to a substantive change in reflection (i.e. an increase or decrease), beta to a recalibration of one's assessment of reflection and gamma to a re‐conceptualization of reflection. We further examine implicit person theory (IPT) as a predictor and perceived coaching utility as a correlate of the three types of change. We observe a higher probability that incremental IPT will associate with alpha change versus other types of change, and that beta and gamma changes correlate positively and negatively, respectively, with perceived utility for work. No significant correlations are observed between types of change and perceived utility for personal development. Our study represents an exploratory contribution to a better understanding of the within‐person changes in reflection following coaching intervention, and has implications for both theory and practice, which we discuss along with indications for future directions.
... In this paper, I adhere to Western's (2012) maxim that distinguishing coaching and mentoring is an intractable endeavor due to the interchangeable ways they are used in different contexts. As others have highlighted pursuing Philosophy of Coaching: An International Journal 7 new knowledge and understanding based on coaching and mentoring being related approaches with similar practices, appears a more useful step (Koopman et al., 2021;Schermuly & Graßmann, 2019). I therefore mainly use the term coaching unless drawing explicitly on mentoring research, and offer comparisons between the positioning of the two to help understand their shared ethos but differences in how research hinterlands have been explored. ...
... does not lead to undesired or negative side effects because "talking" is noninvasive and cannot cause damage. However, current findings show that both expected side effects and undesired effects can occur in coaching and psychotherapeutic treatment, due to correct (Linden & Schermuly-Haupt, 2014;Schermuly & Graßmann, 2019) or incorrect interventions. ...
Full-text available
Psychological interventions often use guided discovery and other techniques for diagnostic exploration and intervention planning. This way, memories may arise in the person, which may be true or false. False memories of earlier events can be harmful and result in real suffering, similar to actual traumatic memories. Based on cognitive psychological and psycho‐traumatological findings, there is pronounced dissent in the academic disciplines regarding the conceptualization, relevance and research of false memories. This review contributes to the basic question of how often false beliefs and false memories may be induced within the frame of different interactional techniques. A systematic review has been conducted of 59 articles from (quasi‐)experimental studies and two qualitative sources from 30 data bases. Three main methods of memory induction provide the basis for reporting: Imagination inflation, false feedback, and memory implantation. Due to the conceptual and methodological diversity of the studies, the results appear to be heterogeneous. Free and guided imagery, as well as suggestive statements, could induce false beliefs or false memories in, on average, 20‐50% of the participants who underwent experimental manipulation concerning false past events. A false belief induction may occur after dream interpretation or hypnosis in more than 50% of participants. Personalized suggestion is more effective in inducing memory than the general plausibility of the suggested events. Further research questions are which therapeutic actions seem appropriate in cases of harmful false memories. This depends not only on whether there are veridical elements in the false memory, but also on the quality and meaning of the memory for the person´s life and ability to cope with burdens.
This article explores how AI might impact upon the coaching relationship. It considers how the relationship might be impacted by technology and considers some of the ethical issues that need to be considered as AI developers start to increase offerings in this domain. For example, if there is a negative outcome from an AI coaching engagement, where does the liability for this sit? Whilst noting there is a role for technology the article also questions if the coaching profession needs to resolve some of the 'fault lines' in current working practices before we complicate matters further with AI.
Background: Work ability and mental health in the workplace is increasingly promoted in terms of workplace health management. In order to select suitable interventions at work in a concrete context, employees and managers of a large state organization (science and development sector) were asked about perceived needs, desired effects and possible side effects of health promotion interventions. Methods: 13 semi-structured interviews with managers and five focus group interviews with employees ( N = 20) were conducted in autumn 2020 by a behavior therapist in training. The evaluation was carried out by a qualitative content analysis of the interview transcripts according to a deductive procedure and was checked by two independent raters. Results: Most frequently, need was expressed for individual case counselling by a health expert due to the diversity of work-related problems. Managers would like to see more health-related leadership training, and a review of the various communication channels of their organization. Expected positive effects are increased self-efficacy, higher person-job-fits and reduced absenteeism. Side effects were mentioned, such as confusion of health management activities with therapy, or sensitization effects when speaking too much about mental health in mentally healthy teams. Lack of competence with the topic of mental health was mentioned as a reason for non-participation in mental health promotion activities. Conclusions: The role of managers in relation to mental health needs to be more defined. Side effects related to mental health activities should be considered in evaluations. Selection of health interventions should depend on the concrete needs of the organization.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has brought rapid innovations in recent years, transforming both business and society. This paper offers a new perspective on whether, and how, AI can be employed in coaching as a key HRD tool. We provide a definition of the concept of AI coaching and differentiate it from related concepts. We also challenge the assumption that AI coaching is feasible by challenging its capability to lead through a systematic coaching process and to establish a working alliance to clients. Based on these evaluations, AI coaching seems to encounter the greatest difficulties in the clients’ problem identification and in delivering individual feedback, which may limit its effectiveness. However, AI generally appears capable of guiding clients through many steps in the coaching process and establishing working alliances. We offer specific recommendations for HRD professionals and organizations, coaches, and developers of AI coaching programs on how AI coaching can contribute to enhance coaching practice. Combined with its lower costs and wider target group, AI coaching will likely transform the coaching profession and provide a future HRD tool.
Full-text available
Prior research showed that coaches often experience negative effects in their work. The present study explores their antecedents and impact on coaches’ health and well-being. In a time-lagged design and an international sample, 275 coaches evaluated their last completed coaching process. Negative effects for coaches and their potential antecedents were assessed at t1 and the consequences for coaches’ health and well-being at t2. Results from structural equation modeling indicated that coaches experienced more negative effects when the relationship quality with their clients was low. When coaches perceived their client’s goal attainment as low and a high number of negative effects for their clients, coaches felt less competent as a coach and experienced more negative effects for themselves. Coaches who experienced more negative effects at t1 perceived more stress and impaired sleep eight weeks later (t2). This is the first study to present antecedents of negative effects for coaches and may assist coaches to prevent negative effects. The relationship to coaches’ health and well-being eight weeks later support the importance of coaches’ self-care. The use of a time-lagged design helps to rule out common method variance that may exist in prior research on the consequences of negative effects.
Full-text available
Research on client dropout in business coaching is scarce even though dropouts can have consequences for clients, coaches, organizations, and the validity of coaching research. In this article, a conceptualization and definition of client dropout are developed and justified. Client dropout is defined as the early termination of coaching by a client before all coaching sessions and goals are reached. This conceptualization has enabled the author to systematically explore this new construct in two consecutive studies. These studies focused on the prevalence and causes of client dropouts from the perspective of the coaches. Both studies showed that coaches are regularly confronted with dropouts in business coaching. Four variables seem to be especially important for client dropout: change motivation of the clients, relationship quality between coaches and clients, neuroticism of the clients, and unwanted side effects of coaching for clients that occur during the coaching process. According to the results of the studies, dropouts should receive more attention when the efficacy of coaching results are measured and communicated.
Full-text available
Zusammenfassung Die Forschung zu Nebenwirkungen von Coaching für Klienten schreitet voran. Es liegen mittlerweile Ergebnisse darüber vor, wie häufig Nebenwirkungen von Coaches und Klienten wahrgenommen werden und welche Ursachen für diese verantwortlich sind. In diesem Artikel wird zunächst der aktuelle Stand der Forschung zu Nebenwirkungen von Coaching für Klienten dargestellt. Diese Forschung ist sehr stark quantitativ geprägt. Deswegen wird nach einer Literaturübersicht ein qualitativer Ansatz gewählt und acht Coachingfälle werden detailliert und systematisch vorgestellt, in denen eine Nebenwirkung aufgetreten ist. Durch die breite Darstellung wird es möglich zu erfassen, wie Nebenwirkungen in Coachings konkret auftreten. Danach werden die kognitiven und affektiven Reaktionen der Coaches und Klienten bezogen auf die Nebenwirkungen sowie die Bewältigungsstrategien der Coaches analysiert. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass insbesondere Nebenwirkungen auftreten, die soziale Konsequenzen haben. Mehrheitlich werden die Nebenwirkungen als nicht notwendig für die Zielerreichung angesehen, doch können diese innerhalb des Coachings bewältigt werden.
Full-text available
Purpose: The primary aim of this paper is to conduct a thorough and systematic review of the empirical and practitioner research on executive, leadership and business coaching to assess the current empirical evidence for the effectiveness of coaching and the mechanisms underlying it. Background: Organisations are increasingly using business coaching as an intervention to improve the productivity and performance of their senior personnel. A consequence of this increased application is the demand for empirical data to understand the process by which it operates and its demonstrable efficacy in achieving pre-set goals. Method: This paper is a systematic review of the academic and practitioner literature pertaining to the effectiveness of business and executive coaching as a developmental intervention for organisations. It focuses on published articles, conference papers and theses that cover business, leadership or executive coaching within organisations over the last 10 years. Conclusions: The main findings show that coaching is an effective tool that benefits organisations and a number of underlying facets contribute to this effectiveness. However, there is deficiency and scope for further investigation in key aspects of the academic research and we identify several areas that need further research and practitioner attention. .
Meta-analytic results have established that workplace coaching is effective, however, little is known about the determinants of coaching effectiveness. This paper reports an inclusive systematic literature review, covering the quantitative and qualitative research on workplace coaching. We focus on seven promising areas in the current workplace coaching literature that emerged by the synthesis of 117 empirical studies: self-efficacy, coaching motivation, goal orientation, trust, interpersonal attraction, feedback intervention, and supervisory support. The major contribution of our paper is the systematic integration of well-established theoretical constructs in the workplace coaching context and the new insights we provide in the synthesis of these literatures. Based on our review, we provide specific recommendations to be addressed in future research, including recommended research methodologies, which we propose will significantly progress the field of workplace coaching theory and practice.
The majority of coaches experience negative effects from coaching, but little is known of what determines their occurrence. This study investigates the relationship between negative effects for clients and for coaches from both clients’ and coaches’ perspectives. It also analyses the role of coaches’ neuroticism and the use of supervision in this relationship. A randomised controlled field experiment with a student sample was used, where half group of the coaches received supervision during coaching and the other half received supervision after coaching was completed. Results show a strong positive relationship between negative effects for coaches and clients, but only from the coaches’ perspective. This relationship was stronger when coaches’ neuroticism was high, but only when coaches did not use supervision during coaching. These findings support the impact of negative effects for clients on negative effects for coaches from the coaches’ perspective and discuss supervision as an intervention to mitigate this relationship.
Coaching hat sich als ein wirksames Personalentwicklungsinstrument etabliert. Verschiedene Studien wurden zu positiven Effekten von Coaching durchgeführt. Negative Effekte von Coaching wurden dagegen bisher kaum erforscht. Der Beitrag fasst die ersten Erkenntnisse zu diesem neuen Forschungsgebiet zusammen. Negative Effekte für Klienten werden in diesem Kapitel nicht mit Misserfolg gleichgesetzt, sondern als Nebenwirkungen begriffen, die auch in erfolgreichen Coachings auftreten können. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass sie häufig auftreten, aber von eher niedriger bis mittlerer Intensität und von kurzer Dauer sind. Die Effekte lassen sich den Kategorien „psychisches Wohlbefinden“, „soziale Integration“, „Leistungsfähigkeit“, „Bewertungen der Arbeitsrolle“, „finanzielle Verluste“ und „Sonstiges“ zuordnen.
Sound research demonstrates the substantial positive effects of business coaching, but little is known about potential side effects. This study sheds light on the characteristics of side effects of coaching from the coachees' perspective and investigates three possible predictors: relationship quality between coach and coachee, the coach's expertise, and the coachees' motivation to change. Data was collected in a time-lagged design from 111 coachees who received business coaching in Germany. Coachees reported that side effects were frequent but with low to moderate intensity. The number of side effects was negatively associated with relationship quality at both measurement times and with coach's expertise at Time 1. Results expand knowledge about side effects of coaching and reveal opportunities for how they can be reduced.
At the marketplace, interpersonal behavior has been traditionally conceptualized as exchange of resources. In a barter society commodities were literally exchanged for one another. Later on, one commodity—money—became standardized and widely accepted; the money-merchandise exchange was then born, and to this day it has maintained the pride of place in economic practice and thinking. But money is also exchanged with services when we pay the plumber for repairing the pipes and the gardener for improving the landscape. Information is exchanged with money when we buy a newspaper or register for a course. Only recently, economists have turned their attention to the exchange of money with services and with information. However, these areas of investigation are still regarded with suspicion, since they fail to lend themselves easily to the elegant formulations of the money—commodities exchange.