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Group supervision case: How do I stay neutral in a conflict during team coaching?
6 December 2018 

Group supervision case: How do I stay neutral in a conflict during team coaching?

Group supervision for coaches

A team of nurses in a hospital suffers from a negative atmosphere and a decreasing level of motivation. The team leader (TL) had received negative feedback about her leadership through HR and in the presence of her line manager. Based on this feedback the team leader was invited to start with an individual coach related to exploring her blind spots. She met her coach only once. After that she found reasons to postpone the next session.

The team leader her team members started a team coaching trajectory with an internal team coach to find ways to improve the atmosphere.

The team leader insisted the team coach to reveal what the team members had told her during the intake. This role had not been agreed and it would take away the neutral position of the team coach. The team coach was very aware of this pitfall, but does feel stuck.

group supervision case: Team Coaches stay neutral during a conflict

Team Coaching during conflict

The supervision question from the team coach

The supervision question of this team coach was: how do I stay out of the conflict dynamics myself?

The team coach wanted to keep her multi-party orientation. She did not want to become the accomplish of the TL.

Group reflection about this supervision case

The questions of the supervision group members reveal new information:

LENS 1: the CLIENT = TEAM and the team leader and  their CONTEXT

  • She has observed the nurses communication pattern: they are constantly gossiping about others and do not give direct feedback to each other
  • The nurses are very much caring for each other. They are very empathetic and sensitive to pain of others. It seems that they are constantly rescuing each other. They do not ask help when needed, they need to be strong themselves , and hope the others will notice it naturally when they have difficulties. There is a low level of self-care with the team members.
  • The behaviour of the TL stimulates the non-assertive behaviour of the team members as they feel they cannot speak freely.
  • The caring context of the hospital stimulates this caring behaviour.



  • The team members are glad that “somebody” finally listens to them: the team coach!
  • The team coach felt the appeal from the members to become “messenger to the team leader” as well


LENS 3: INTERVENTIONS of the team coach

  • The contracting with the team members and team leader could have been improved: setting more clear boundaries, clarity rules of the game, define roles & responsibilities.
  • The team coach has invited all to practice “circular communication” when they discuss items in stead of speaking through her.
  • The team coach has succeeded to increase self-awareness and self-observation with all team members


LENS 4: The team coach as a PERSON

  • The team coach is the oldest daughter in the family. She has learned to solve the problems, take care for brothers and sisters. She learned to be strong and mediate when conflicts occurred.
  • When we observe the team coach in her non-verbal posture, we see the posture of a ‘caring mother, sitting with an imaginary baby on her lab’



  • I felt the whole group was very intensively connected to the supervisee!
  • It was difficult for me to close the case in time. I really wanted the supervisee to find a way-out!
  • Me and others seemed to be sucked in the rescuing role as well!



  • While listening to the case, I and another group member 2 grab unconsciously with our hands to our womb. One of us even feels phantom pain in the womb. We need to get up and move to get out of the constellation.
  • One image appears in several variations to different members: the image of a baby in a ‘baby hatch” – as if the nurses cannot take care of their “common baby”


Hypotheses formulated by the group supervisees:

  • The team coach was sucked into the system because there seemed to be a parallel process between the team members and how she behaved in her own family system.
  • The caring culture of the hospital reinforced the caring for others. The lack of caring for themselves was expressed by a lack of assertivity. The internal coach was, just as the nurses, seduced to take up the role of ‘care taker’ or ‘rescuer’ of the team.
  • The team leader seems to have a very difficult task with this team. She had to meet all the implicit expectations from all the team members. Because the team leader was not perfect, she may have triggered early trauma sensations. Such as with different team members related to their own care takers when they were baby themselves. There may have been a projection of the images of the ‘perfect mother’ to the ‘perfect leader’ by several team members.
  • By not being assertive for the own needs, a lot of indirect and judgemental finger pointing to others, made the atmosphere very poisoned. The team members behaved alternating as attacker, victim or rescuer (Drama Triangle – Karpman). This hindered them the focus on the common goal and their job.
  • The adult position that the coach tried to take, being multi-party oriented, was very confusing to the team members. They wanted to include the team coach in their drama-system.


What is the next step for this team coach?  She want to avoid being sucked in the team system!

Becoming aware of the many parallel systems, made it possible for the team coach to act more freely and to re-contract with the team on her role.

Her action plan was to discuss the principle of the drama triangle with the team and do some interventions for people to reconnect with their own needs, become more assertive to speak their truths.

A challenging mission in the context of a hospital culture!


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About the author
Leen coacht executives en management teams, begeleidt intervisies en is lead trainer in de ICF-certificerende opleidingen ROOT-GROW-BLOOM en in Teamcoaching. Professionele Reflectieve Supervisie wordt aangeboden in kleine besloten groepen en aan individuele coaches en consultants.
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