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Injury and the Orchestral Environment: Part II. Organisational Culture, Behavioural Norms, and Attitudes to Injury

Dale L.L. Rickert, Margaret S. Barrett, Bronwen J. Ackermann
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 29 Number 2: Page 94 (June 2014)

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Abstract: The organisational culture, behavioural norms, and attitudes of a workplace have a profound influence on levels of injury and illness amongst its workers. While this is well established in Work Health and Safety literature, very little research has attempted to understand the influence of organisational culture on injury risk in the orchestral profession. To address this, the current study aimed to investigate the influence of organisational culture on injury outcomes for orchestral musicians. Using a qualitative case study methodology, in-depth semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 10 professional orchestral cellists (2 freelance and 8 fulltime members) from a single Australian orchestra. After initial data analysis, further interviews were undertaken with a set of 5 orchestral management staff as a means of data triangulation. All data were analysed using a themes-based "analysis of narrative" approach. The findings indicate that an orchestral culture exists in which musicians see injury as a sign of weakness, failure, and poor musicianship. Such negative perceptions of injury influence musicians to play through considerable levels of pain and continue performing with injuries. Because of perceived judgment from the orchestral group, musicians were found to conceal injuries from colleagues and management staff. Freelance musicians felt that disclosing injuries may lead to decreased work opportunities, and both full-time and casual musicians felt that "opening up" about injury may subject them to group judgment about their technique or musicianship. The study suggests education measures which may be effective at influencing individual behaviours and attitudes as well as cultural change initiatives which could lead to long-term positive health outcomes in the orchestral workplace.

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