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Competing Values, Social Work

Competing Values, Social Work

Competing values and the dilemma they often create are common in all professional fields. Social work is the one where decisions regarding ethics have the most significant impact. It is due to the specific nature of social work. Experts note that “a historic and defining feature of social work is the profession’s dual focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society” (Read the code of ethics, 2017, para. 2). Being a competent social worker requires strong ethical reasoning and consistent ethical decision-making. Discussion helps to develop both of these essential professional qualities. The primary objective of this paper is to discuss competing values and the subsequent tension in Maria’s case.

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Competing Core Values Dilemma

Social workers and caseworkers in the United States follow the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics. Like any other ethical code, it serves both as a guideline for professional practice for social workers and as a theoretical basis for ethical reasoning (Read the code of ethics, 2017). It also establishes core values that every social work specialist must adhere to. By following it, they let their “light so shine before men” (King James Bible, 1769/2021, Matthew 5:16). The problem is that values tend to compete. It is not only because of the feature of the profession mentioned above but also due to human nature.

First Option Analysis

Maria’s case demonstrates the conflict of such core values ​​as Integrity Dignity, and Worth of the Person versus the Importance of Human Relationships. According to the NASW Code of Ethics, “social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person” (Read the code of ethics, 2017, para. 20). Handing over information about Maria to the school principal can ensure a safe school space and a healthy relationship within the pupils’ community. However, without her informed consent, it would be an act of disrespect to the client. Telling the principal that her behavior is due to her parents’ divorce without asking Maria’s opinion is an act of dishonesty, which contradicts the core values ​​of social workers. It is necessary to note that “social workers act honestly and responsibly” (Read the code of ethics, 2017, para. 22). Moreover, as indicated in the scenario, this option is associated with a potential leak of Maria’s story and further bullying by classmates.

Second Option Analysis

Not sharing Maria’s story with the school principal or not effectively supporting the client in her struggle with her anger issues may result in a hostile school environment and a backlash from classmates in the form of bullying. The school principal may perceive this decision as disrespect toward the working relationship. One of the duties of social workers is “to strengthen relationships among people,” not to weaken or undermine them (Read the code of ethics, 2017, para. 21). As one can see, both options can lead to bullying. It is the tension that competing values ​​create. The path to an efficient solution begins with Maria’s informed consent.


This paper explores the competing value dilemma in the case of Maria. This dilemma has been identified as Integrity and Dignity and Worth of the Person versus the Importance of Human Relationships. An explanation was given of how these conflicting core values create tension. This work also offers one of the possible directions for a positive solution to the scenario, which is the informed consent of the client.


King James Bible. (1769/2021). King James Bible Online. Web.

Read the code of ethics. (2021). National Association of Social Workers. Web.

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