I’ve an ethical conundrum…

After completing my professional training, I tried out membership of various different governing bodies. After a year, I picked one which is NLP-specific rather than a broader coaching one, because I’m pretty passionate about NLP, and was keen to be part of an organisation that aims to spread the good word about how great it is when used as a tool for positivity rather than sleazy sales.

I’ve been with that governing body for some 7 years now and – other than being disappointed that it doesn’t seem to be a successful channel for clients to find a coach – I’ve been largely content. They run annual conferences which provide a mix of training, new ideas and techniques, as well as stuff around growing a business. I’ve not been for a few years but, last weekend, that was put right.

I arranged to meet a good friend there, but was also contacted by someone I consider more an inherited friend, who told me she was “dying to see me again” 😦 She was originally someone else’s friend, except that person did a sleight of hand handover of this person to me, under the auspices that she was busy arranging her wedding before moving to the US to join her husband. I’m more than a tad peeved with them both… but that’s not the topic of this post.

My inherited friend trained at the same time as I – and our mutual erstwhile friend – did, and is also more highly qualified than I. She’s attended each and every annual conference of run by our governing body, while I’ve only attended a couple (this one being the second). A troubled soul and one of life’s victims, and yet, has been appointed a local area Ambassador by the governing body. I’ll be honest, I was surprised they appointed her when she applied, but I know she spends a fair amount of time in communication with the founders of the governing body, so I presumed they’d had sufficient time to screen her suitability.

But then came the conference, where we were partnered for the first practical exercise… and that’s when it became horribly clear that she’d no idea how to carry out even the most basic level NLP task. I spent our time re-teaching her that basic skill, so missed out on putting what I’d seen demonstrated into effect. When she grabbed me for the second stage, I was too late to partner up with anyone else, and so ended up putting my teaching skills into effect once again. The third time, I held my hand up to her in a firm no, and approached someone else to work with. I felt bad for the other people also getting their time wasted, but I’d already given… and them’s the breaks at this kind of thing – right?

But then I got to thinking. How had she got through the screening process to be appointed an ambassador? Indeed, had there even been a screening process, or had it simply involved her making nice? In fact, now that I think of it, the founders were the only people she made any effort to be nice and engage with at the conference – other than me. The rest of the time she was rather abrasively talking at people, very fast and rather loudly, about her recent ADHD diagnosis and her employment/life troubles. She’s always been a tad self-involved, but since being on medication, we got to experience a decidedly ramped up “on speed” version.

So, my questions are…

  1. Do I judge the governing body for not having done their screening properly in selecting her as an ambassador?
  2. Am I obliged to express my concerns to them about my inherited friend’s (lack of) suitability for the role?

In truth, I’m already doing the first… and have started to look around for another suitable governing body. So I guess I’m really only asking if I’m obliged to share my opinion and its basis… or whether I can simply slope away guilt free?

What say you oh wise people of blogging land? What would you do in the circumstances?

© Debra Carey, 2023

24 thoughts on “I’ve an ethical conundrum…

Add yours

  1. This is tricky. On the one hand I can see the wisdom in keeping your mouth shut about this inherited friend’s failings and let her sink or swim. If she got into the organization, then there is a reason. It might not necessarily be a good reason, but there is one. You don’t know the backstory there.

    On the other hand if you think the organization would take your critique seriously, and you feel like you could do some good by bringing her inadequacies to light, then telling them your concerns might be appreciated. This approach could end well or it might end in “kill the messenger.”

    No clear path with this conundrum.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m with Ally. People don’t always take criticism well, and it could rebound on you politically. But my own personal philosophy is that you have to give people and organizations a chance to do better with feedback if possible. Maybe there are others also complaining. Or maybe it’ll earn you a reputation as a troublemaker…or maybe it’ll earn you a reputation as someone who is tough but fair. Impossible to gauge from here. If you are skating away and don’t care about the consequences, then do it. You might be the only one who can.

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  3. Yes, I’ve vacillated back & forth on this one on exactly the lines you’ve described. For now, I’m tending towards keeping my mouth shut and living with the guilt, while not feeling sure that I’ve any reason to feel guilty.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Autumn. One other option I’ve considered since writing this is whether my best course of action is to ask her whether she feels it’s right to continue in that role. I suspect I’d be more comfortable with pissing her off, especially as thinking about this is taking up so much space in my already heavily overloaded brain!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’d say something only if there were an ethical responsibility and ethical questions. To say someone isn’t qualified raises all sorts of issues as to what “qualified” means

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think you’re doing the organization a great disservice if you don’t give them an honest critique of your inherited friend’s abilities (or lack thereof, as the case may be).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. If it was me:
    1. Yes
    2. Yes – not obliged really, but if it was my organization I would appreciate knowing. And as a participant, it would weight heavy on my conscience to NOT speak up.

    This doesn’t speak well of the organization, that they have this hot mess as an Ambassador. She can do a lot of damage as their representative and most people would not say anything, just steer clear of her and the group.

    However, no good deed goes unpunished so be prepared as those that made her an ambassador could double down on their decision, and find a way to make you the problem instead. It’s awful but that is how humans work. Is there someone in leadership there that you trust? Go to that person.


    Liked by 1 person

  8. No. No. And no ! You did not appoint the ambassador. You are not in charge of the ambassador. And evidentially nobody else who should be concerned about the ambassador is raising any flags. So why do I get a bad feeling about this ? Just because they a governing body does not mean they are doing the important little things well. Something is missing in the ambassador feed back loop. Ethics be damned there are other serious problems here.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My take on this is more about how YOU feel about this, rather than the ethical issues (which I hope isn’t merely a copout). Although your feelings of frustration seem completely valid, I think in the long run you might feel better about simply walking away from it. Getting involved by sharing your concerns could rebound back in some way — even emotionally — which could only prolong matters. That you have already made a personal judgment on the governing body means you’re more than halfway there in getting past it. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think you’re right to be looking around for another governing body. There are many times in our lives when we join something and later leave, finding that for one reason or another it no longer suits us. You’re not in charge of this organization. If you were one of the people in charge, you would have a responsibility to do something. If someone who is responsible for the organization asks what you think, then you should tell them. But I don’t think you need to search them out.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. LA, it’s not that she’s not qualified – I know she’s qualified, because we qualified together as Practitioners 7 years ago – my concern is over her suitability to be an Ambassador for the governing body and for NLP as a whole.

    After she’d demonstrated to me that she’s not competent to practice without significant re-training, I started to question the governing body’s selection process. A point could be made that an Ambassador doesn’t need to be able to practice, if the role is considered a selling one rather than a technical one. But that didn’t sit well with me, hence me feeling my issue is with the governing body, rather than with the person they’ve appointed – if you see what I mean.

    To be fair to her, she’s not pretending to practise; she’s no website set up and her online presence shows that she’s working outside of the industry – which made me wonder if they just accept anyone who applies for the role so long as they appear on their role as having a qualification.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Mark, I’m definitely finding a new governing body as, the more time I spend on this decision, the more aspects of the organisation I realise I’ve found, if not unsatisfactory, then a bit amateur. And that’s a good enough reason for me not to want my professional reputation tied to theirs.

    But until I find a replacement for the opportunity to access annual NLP-specific training from top industry professionals, available to me as a member, I’m holding back on the critique. I’d like to believe there are other bodies doing likewise, and I’m currently checking them all out. As soon as I find one, I’ll resign my membership and will feedback on this – and the other issues.

    Thank you, as the almost sole voice saying I owe it to them, you’ve tapped into that guilty nagging feeling I’ve had that simply slinking away isn’t OK.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Deb, there isn’t anyone there I really know, or I’d have not held back. In fact, the reverse is true – my “friend” is the one who is buddied up with the leadership.

    Having thought it through, I will be feeding back. But – selfishly – I’m holding back until I’ve sourced a replacement NLP-specific training body for on-going CPD. I’m prioritising the selection of a replacement governing body, and will go for one which covers a broad church of coaching methodologies. After that, I’ll search for an NLP-specific resource.


  14. The more I’ve thought this through – with the benefit of the really helpful comments here – the more I’ve realised that what you’ve said is right John. Their heart is in the right place, but they’re not as professional as a professional governing body needs to be. Thanks you John, it’s been really helpful to discuss this through in this manner.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thanks Marty. Thanks especially for understanding that the issue – for me – is more than ethical. It is indeed emotional – as most difficult decisions for me are. With the benefit of the really useful comments I’ve received here, I’ve been able to decide on my course of action, which does prioritise me and my needs.

    I’m sad to be taking this step, but realise it’s yet another big, important one in how I value myself as a coach, such that I set high standards for those I associate with.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Nicki, yours is the last comment I’ve read, and you make such an excellent point. Their reaction to my choosing to resign my membership will be a signal as to how I decide to proceed on the feedback or not to feedback question. Thank you ❤


  17. I was trying to tip toe. Unless you know with 1 billion percent certainty that she’s harmed someone don’t say anything. It will come back to bite you.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thanks LA. When I drilled it down, I realised my issue wasn’t with her – it was with the governing body for appointing her without carrying out a proper review. As an Ambassador, I can’t imagine she will *need* to practise, but I believe it doesn’t look good if she’s not able to do so. She’s more likely to be a cause for embarrassment than do any harm – otherwise I’d be having stern words with her myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I don’t think you are under any obligation to report, Debs. I would say do what feels right to you. Listen to your gut!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I’m still sitting with the final decision Christie, but thank you – you know how I allow my gut to make choices for me 🙂


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