Three situations where coaching is a waste of time

Have you ever looked at someone you’re coaching – either a team member or a client – and  felt you just weren’t getting anywhere?

What is it that gives us that uncomfortable feeling?  Looking back over my experiences, there seem to be three main factors at play when coaching just isn’t going to work:

1.  They really don’t want to be coached

Even when a client has committed cash to being coached, there is sometimes a resistance to accepting there are things that can change and they have the power to change them.  For employees who have had coaching ‘thrust upon them’ this resisitance is even stronger.

2.  They actually hate what they’re doing

Many managers will try to coach/coax better performance out of staff when it’s clear that no matter what you do there’s one thing only the staff member can change:  How they feel about their job.  If it’s not a good fit, no amount of coaching will make them care more.

3.  They expect you to tell them what to do

Much as we would like to be, coaches are not knights in shining armour arriving just in time on our white charger!  The ‘Prince Charming’ expectation applies equally with men and women.  Anyone who is waiting to be rescued from their situation by a coach is probably not going to make much progress with coaching.

For all these reasons, getting to know the person you will be coaching before any intervention is essential.

Even with good preparation and planning, the manager/coach can find themselves with the sinking feeling you get when you know you’re wasting your time.  You’re not going to get anywhere so why keep trying?

You have more productive things to do with your time.  The sooner you give up on your lost coaching cause, the sooner you’ll get to do them!

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Comment by Charles van Heerden on October 7, 2011 at 15:56

Very good points Susan.

I would add one more point, where the manager does not support coaching. Without the manager's support, the environment would not change much, which means it is highly likely the employee will move to another company. In which case coaching will be blamed. 

Comment by Di Browne on October 11, 2011 at 19:27

I generally agree with Susan's comments.  However, in relation to the second point mentioned about coaching being a waste of time if staff hate what they're doing, I strongly believe coaching in situation does have some benefits.


At the very least through coaching, staff will end up with more clarity around what they would like to do instead of a job they hate.  With this clarity there may be an opportunity to transfer to another position within the business.  Even if the employee decides to leave to pursue a better fit elsewhere, although this would incur initial costs of turnover, ultimately it would save the business in terms of ongoing lack of productivity, communication and team cohesiveness, not to mention the more overt consequences of sabotaging outcomes and relationships if they did stay.  Ultimately having someone in the role that loves their job and is a good fit would benefit all stakeholders.


Imagine how much this would benefit the business.  For example, if a staff member who did not like what they were doing left, surely productivity, communication, team cohesiveness and the overall working environment would no longer be a concern.  This would be reflected in the bottom line, not to mention the time saved by not having to deal with poor performance which would allow more time to focus on running the business.


Point 3 discussed how 'they expect you to tell them what to do'.  This is part of the general coaching process.  One of the main aims of coaching is to help clients understand how they alone are responsible for where they are in their lives and what is happening to them.  How they choose to see and react to any situation will determine their outcome.  It is a great challenge and when achieved, it is very rewarding for both the client and the coach with amazing benefits for all involved.

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