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Coaching a Director where a complaint of “laddish” behaviour had been made


One of the directors in this leading international tech company had a grievance bought against him for his behaviour, by a female manager who reported to him. The behaviour was not intended to offend – more the result of a “laddish” culture with lots of quite physical “larking around” – especially between the men and which culminated in an incident, which embarrassed the female manager. She felt so uncomfortable with it and with the culture of the department that had allowed this to happen, that she tendered her resignation.

Thankfully the organisation took the situation seriously. The manager was exactly the kind of person they were trying to attract and retain in the business and they realised that the culture, and the director leading it, had to change.


We worked on a one to line basis with the director with our Risk to Reward Coaching approach. This approach differs from more standard developmental coaching which tends to be more led by the coachee. In situations where behaviour has crossed the line and often where there has been a grievance and a disciplinary, we use this very focussed approach to help the person understand the impact their behaviour has had and support them to make the changes they need to make.

Understandably coachees in these situations are often quite embarrassed about their behaviour. At more senior levels it is very common for them to have never been given any feedback on their behaviour, so a grievance can come as quite a shock. Almost always the behaviour has not been intentional… it has been misjudged. This does not excuse it, but it does mean that we work hard to set it up in a supportive way.


We worked with the Director for 6 sessions over a period of 6 months and checked in with the HR manager to see what changes were being observed back in the workplace. The Director himself was surprised at how much he got out of the coaching and was able to make significant changes to his style, becoming far more inclusive in his approach and understanding he needed to be seen as a role model for the department. Colleagues and HR saw visible changes too and the most telling result was that the female manager decided to stay.