Ethical vitality: Identity, responsibility, and change in an Australian hospital

Carl Rhodes*, Stewart Clegg, Anjana Anandakumar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This article reports and reflects on a narrative ethnographic account of organizational change in a large public hospital in Australia. We describe how the conduct and identity positions of people in the hospital were related to three prevalent discourses; one of authoritarian professionalism, one of collaboration and open disclosure, and one of inspection and retribution. We suggest that the presence of multiple and competing organizational discourses on which to base decisions, highlighted the need for managers to take a personal stake in deciding their own conduct. We propose the notion of ethical vitality as a means of registering the ways that ethical responsibility can only come alive in organizations when people take, and are in a position to take, a reflexive responsibility for their conduct. On this basis, we suggest that the presence of multiple ethical norms and rules in organizations, on a plural model, might actually make people in organizations more rather than less ethically responsible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1037-1057
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Public Administration
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


  • Discourse
  • Ethics
  • Identity
  • Organizational change
  • Responsibility


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