What to do when you don’t like your client

MP900284871There comes a time for one reason or another when a coach realizes that s/he is finding it hard to like or work with a client.  Sometimes this is due to what is called ‘transference’, where the client mirrors someone from the past that an individual may have had problems with even though the person may not be aware that they are making such a connection. Transference can be either positive or negative (and even positive transference can bring its own challenges) as much as those associated with the possibility that what you are experiencing is a negative transference.

Alternatively, sometimes such situations are due to what is called a ‘parallel process’ where the client is experiencing the same feelings as you and is treating you the way s/he is being treated.These situations can be a way of gaining insight into how the client feels (the way you feel) and what the situation is like for him/her. It is here that coaching supervision adds great value as having someone to share your challenges and thoughts with can help you gain a perspective that you might otherwise not have found.

Having said that you cannot like all of the people all of the time and yes it is usually possible to find a connection with most people.  However, there are rare occasions when regardless of how hard you try you cannot overcome your feelings about an individual.  As you said when you work with clients, even those others find challenging, you can often understand where they are coming from and find something to like about them.  However, this is not always the case and we, as coaches, need to understand that we are all fallible human beings and there is no shame in that.

However, now that you have admitted how you feel it is time to consider what you are going to do about the situation. This is especially important if you believe that your feelings may be being transmitted to your client in some way.  This is called ‘leakage’ as while you try to present a professional coaching persona your feelings may show themselves in ways in which you are unaware of.

Therefore, your first port of call is to discuss the coaching work you are undertaking with your coaching supervisor. If you do not have one, it is now time to find one. You can do this through most of the UK based professional coaching bodies. Coaching Supervision helps you explore your feelings; examine the work you are undertaking helping you make sense of the process you are experiencing.  In many instances just by discussing the situation this often clears the block(s) you find yourself experiencing as well as fulfilling your need to off-load. You may not even be aware how beneficial sharing your thoughts and feelings can be until you experience the benefits as like your clients you can be too busy trying to do a good job.

However, if after exploring your coaching work with this client you still feel the same; your supervisor will help you decide how to deal with your situation. For example, if you are not offering the best service you can to the individual concerned then it may be best to end the coaching assignment. If this is the case you will need to handle the situation sensitively and the emphasis has to be placed on your sharing the fact that you do not feel you are able to offer him the quality of coaching you believe he should have. Again, your supervisor can help you decide on the form of words you will use. By placing the difficulty on yourself (which is where the difficulty lies) then you can go on to recommend a colleague. Again, your coaching supervisor can assist you consider who and how this can be done. In addition, if there is a third party such as the client’s manager involved in the process then you will need to consider how you and the client will deal with that person so as not to have a negative impact on your client or damage your own reputation. Having said this it is probably an unlikely, if not totally impossible, outcome.

A situation such as this offers you, the coach, with an opportunity for your own professional development. As coaches, we often gain great learning from the challenges we face in our coaching work even if such situations feel uncomfortable while we are dealing with them.