Rule breaking in social care: hierarchy, contentiousness and informal rules

Dermot Breslin, Geoffrey Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Taking a longitudinal case study approach, this article examines the process of rule breaking in a newly formed UK domiciliary care provider. In this study, the founder acted in such a manner so as to partially decouple the organization from externally imposed institutional rules and regulations, allowing the emergence of informal rules between carer and client. These informal rules increasingly guided the behaviours of care workers over time, resulting in the breach of formal strictures. Building on the dimensions of hierarchy and contentiousness, rule breaking is conceptualized here as a phenomenon which occurs as a result of the tension between competing formal and informal rules, at multiple levels throughout the organizational hierarchy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)750-765
Number of pages16
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • contentiousness
  • hierarchy
  • informal rules
  • multi-level study
  • rule breaking
  • social care

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