A systematic review of qualitative studies in workplace and executive coaching: the emergence of a body of research

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There is substantial evidence that qualitative research in executive coaching has come of age in the previous decade. Two large research programs have yielded consistent and quantifiable results, and a range of case studies, field studies, and process research is inspiring newer quantitative-research designs. This study contains the first rigorous, systematic review of this qualitative-research base with preliminary conclusions in terms of what this body of work might be telling us. Comprehensive data gathering and screening categorized 101 publications (peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and dissertations) containing original qualitative research into workplace and executive coaching. This seemed a sufficiently large number of original publications to analyze and then synthesize in terms of its comprehensive findings. Three research questions were formulated in terms of what the qualitative research may offer over and above standard quantitative outcome research, and they are systematically answered with the help of an interpretative synthesis of the findings in four domains. The qualitative-research body of workplace and executive coaching seems to warrant the following tentative findings. Success criteria are coachee-related, involving the development of trust in, acceptance of, and commitment to coaching and the coachee's respect for the coaching contract. Another success criterion for both coaches and coachees is the ability for both to achieve agreement on tasks and goals, plus a deep level of shared psychological understanding and new insight.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-248
Number of pages22
JournalConsulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


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