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A Client Submits A Formal Complaint! What Then?

A Client Submits A Formal Complaint! What Then?

By Mary Verstraete

As a coach, you hope that there is never a complaint about you. The fact is, as more coaches are working within organizations or have their own coaching business, a natural result will be an increase of complaints. In addition to the coaching agreement, and you and the client having an understanding of the details of that agreement, there is a process that can help protect you against false or inaccurate complaints.


First. Have a clear understanding of coaching ethics and a commitment to apply high ethical standards in your coaching business.

  • The International Coach Federation has developed a Code of Ethics (Code) to promote professional and ethical coaching practices and to raise awareness outside the coaching profession of the integrity, commitment, and ethical conduct of ICF Members and ICF Credentialed coaches.
  • Take an Ethics course and be well versed in Ethics to ensure that you understand the Code and are applying it to your coaching methods and business practices. Resource book: Law and Ethics in Coaching by Patrick Williams and Sharon K. Anderson

Second. Consider being a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF).

  • ICF has created a forum where individuals can bring complaints about alleged breaches of the Code by ICF Members and ICF Credentialed coaches.
  • ICF provides review, investigation, and a response to alleged unethical practices or behavior deviating from the established ICF Code.

Third. For ICF members and ICF credentialed coaches, there is an Ethical Conduct Review (ECR) provided for any complaint submitted to ICF.

The ECR is intended to:

  • Serve as a “model of excellence” for the fair review of complaints concerning the ethical conduct of ICF Members and ICF Credentialed coaches.
  • Be responsive to complaints concerning experiences believed to be breaches of the Code by ICF Members and ICF Credentialed coaches.

Click here for a download of the complete ECR process.


Finally, be proactive to ensure that your coaching agreement is protecting you.

  • An agreement represents your relationship with a client and it's crucial to include standard clauses covering all angles to help legally protect you and your client.
  • The Center for Coaching Excellence has created a coaching agreement template using the International Coaching Federation Ethics Committee guidelines and we would like to share it with you. You have the liberty to brand the agreement for your coaching business. Click here for more information.

We can't count on the hope of never having a formal complaint submitted about us. Being prepared if it does happen is one way of protecting your business and your clients.