Some people have the idea that coaching in the work place is a maintenance activity, like oiling machines that aren’t working quite well. The more generous of these people say it is like maintenance capex (capital expenditure). Such maintenance has a long-term impact beyond just oiling, but it is still about maintaining the current level of activity. 

Treated like a machine

Still more generous types might say coaching is more like growth capex — about investing for the future. The reality is that coaching can be used for all, or any one of these objectives, but that would be a sad and terribly limiting use of its potential. In fact, what underlies these views is itself sad and terribly limiting. 

For, these views reduce the vast complexity of the human — hopes, dreams, skills and feelings — to a machine-like existence. An existence whose value is judged only by its contribution to some bean counter’s little ledger. Don’t get me wrong, this is not saying that businesses must ignore their economic interests. This is saying that by reducing people to faceless androids no different to machines, organisations harm both their employees and ultimately themselves. If not in the short run, then in the long run. Unsurprisingly, big corporate bureaucracies with their size and many layers of hierarchy are more at risk of doing this. 

Beware the sponsor’s agenda 

The most effective company sponsored coaching happens when the organisation is really looking to support the individual as a human being. When it genuinely wants the person to flourish, whether that means staying in their role, changing or leaving the firm entirely. I mean why would you want someone to begrudgingly do work that their heart is not in? And, that very intention speaks volumes for the attitude of the organisation. Is it one of trust and true partnership, or one of manipulation and exploitation?  

When coaching in the work place, I am always very wary of HR departments trying to use coaching to nudge and manipulate their employees for some agenda. And the worst of them try to get the tacit buy-in of the coach, creating a conflict of interest. Thankfully, not every business is a sterile, box-ticking bureaucracy. 

Options beyond coaching in the work place

Remember too that there is always the option of privately arranged coaching away from the organisation. That way there is no doubt about whose interest the coach really has in their mind. You avoid the potential conflict of interest altogether. 


life coaching londonHarsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.

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