Coaching Through Uncertain Times

What a crazy year it has been… The world was flipped upside down, our daily lives changed dramatically, and we had to establish new routines.  It is hard to believe that almost a year ago, our world was drastically different.  COVID-19 has taken a professional, personal and emotional toll on everyone. What employees are looking for right now is empathy and understanding as we move into 2021.   

Coaching in a tough environment 

The business environment today is filled with anxious and tense employees. Anxious, tense and terrified employees may be productive in the short term, but not in the long term (Hunt and Weintraub, 2017).  That is why it is important to learn how to coach in difficult environments. 

Coaching your employees during COVID-19 may seem like an impossible task, but it is possible.

When you switch your mindset into a coaching mindset, you have the ability to stand back and reflect on your own behaviour, as well as look at why people are behaving the way they are in their current environment (Hunt and Weintraub, 2017).  

What does this mean?

This means that there is hope and that there is a way to work and coach through this tough environment. Coaching your employees in a pandemic is possible.

Employee Development and Chemistry

As a coach, you need to lead as an example if you would like your employees to develop within an organization. You need to be an example for your employees.  You need to come into work with an open mind and positive attitude (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee, 2001).

Chemistry plays a part in the role of coaching. ‘The relationship between the coach and coachee is an important factor in effectively achieving such results and, furthermore, that a relationship in which there is a similarity between coach and coachee would be most effective in accomplishing them’ (Bozer, Baek-Kyoo, and Santora, 2015, p. 219).  Without chemistry, you cannot have a successful coaching relationship.  Chemistry can come in many different forms and develop over time as the coach and coachee get to know each other better (Bozer, Baek-Kyoo, and Santora, 2015, p. 219).  To be an effective coach in a difficult situation, the coach must develop trust. Trust is built by being ‘honest yet tactful, balanced and consistent, as well as supportive of an environment of retribution-free communication with coachees’ (Payne, 2007, p. 138).

The danger of signaling your intent to coach

Not everyone is open to being coached. This is the danger of signaling your intent to coach.  Employees can be arrogant and think that they do not need coaching (Hunt and Weintraub, 2017).  The intent to coach must also fit the personality of the employee, not every employee has the same needs and personality, therefore the coaching style should be adjusted towards the individual (Hunt and Weintraub, 2017).


Coaching your employees through a pandemic is possible. It is also important.  The coach and leader you should work at changing the work environment to a positive one, lead by example, create a positive and open environment that offers support to your peers.


Bozer, G., Baek-Kyoo, J., & Santora, J. C. (2015). Executive Coaching: Does Coach-Coachee Matching Based On Similarity Really Matter?. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice & Research67(3), 218-233. doi:10.1037/cpb0000044

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2001). Primal leadership: The hidden drivers of great. Harvard Business Review, 79(11), 43-51. 

Hunt, J. M., & Weintraub, J. R. (2017). The coaching manager: Developing top talent in business (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. 

Payne, V. (2007). Chapter 8: Handling Difficult Coaching Situations. In , Coaching for High Performance (pp. 135-148). American Management Association International