Learning from broken rules: Individualism, bureaucracy, and ethics

Amy Rossiter, Richard Walsh-Bowers, Isaac Prilleltensky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The authors discuss findings from a qualitative research project concerning applied ethics that was undertaken at a general family counseling agency in southern Ontario. Interview data suggested that workers need to dialogue about ethical dilemmas, but that such dialogue demands a high level of risk taking that feels unsafe in the organization. This finding led the researchers to examine their own sense of "breaking rules" by suggesting an intersubjective view of ethics that requires a "safe space" for ethical dialogue. The authors critique the individualistic tendency of professional ethics as an effect of power that is tied to the history of professionalism, and discuss the role of bureaucracies in diminishing a central role for ethics in helping services. The authors call for elaboration of critical perspectives on ethics in order to promote the centrality of ethics in the helping professions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-320
Number of pages14
JournalEthics and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Applied ethics
  • Counseling bureaucracies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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