28 December, 2017

Role ambiguity, a risk factor in the orchestra


When we talk about occupational risks we have to be clear about the different existing concepts.

We have “danger”, “risk”, “risk factor” and “severity”. To understand what we are talking about, we are going to define them.

– Danger is an intrinsic condition or characteristic that can cause injury or illness, damage to the property and/or paralysis of a process.

– Risk is the combination of probability with the consequence of not controlling danger.

– Risk factor is the process that increases risk probability.

– Severity is the disability resulting from risk and danger.  We can measure it in days of disability, permanent partial disability, permanent total disability and death.


A staircase without railing and possibility of falling more than 2 meters.

Danger: Falling from the unprotected side. Fall from above.

Risk: the probability that a worker falls on that side (example: if nobody climbs that staircase because their access is physically restricted, climbing the ladder is a danger but there is no risk (obviously there is no zero risk, but this is an example)
That is, risk is the probability of danger to be materialized.

Risk factor: stairs in poor condition without protection against falls.

RISK FACTOR: Role ambiguity

“The role that each person must play in the workplace represents, in general, the way in which the job is expected to be performed. Situations of ambiguity and role conflict at work have a negative impact on psychological well-being.
If functions are not well defined, inadequate or insufficient information about the role of the worker and inconsistent or incompatible instructions or requirements are provided, we can find what we call role ambiguity.”

Ambiguity of role occurs when expectations are sent to a worker with insufficient information. Role ambiguity is caused by the precarious definition of categories and jobs. The lack of clarity and information in the definition of job positions is a clear psychosocial risk with serious consequences on the group and on the individual.

Each job must have at least the following concepts well defined:

  • Objectives of the job
  • Authority
  • Responsibilities
  • Tasks
  • Processes to perform their tasks

One of the most common risk factors in psychosocial risks in orchestras is the lack of clarity or precariousness of the definition of the category of musicians in the orchestra.

In most of the organization chart of Spanish orchestras the definition of the categories seems insufficient or at least ambiguous. It can be said that there is a lack of information or clarity about the responsibilities, tasks, methods, processes and consequences of job performance.

We all know what the functions of the various categories of the musician in an orchestra are: concertmaster, soloist, co-soloist or support soloist and “tuti”, but each orchestra defines the same position differently.

When we analyze the texts that define any of these positions, among the different collective agreements of the Spanish orchestras, we can see that there is a great difference between some texts and others. We can also see that the definitions are far from clear and with sufficient information on how to carry out the task. For example, we find that practically everyone talks about the fact that the soloist is responsible for the section but … is he responsible for the election of the members? What tasks should or can you carry out with the other members of the section? What happens if his artistic opinion differs from other members of the section? And what happens if it differs from conductor opinion?

It is clear that in the end with “common sense” everything is clarified, but in stress and accumulated tension situations the lack of information or clarity in the information can give rise to psychosocial problems.

Someone can define an orchestra like a clockwork in which each piece has a precise role and all together form some precision machinery. It is vital that each piece of this machinery is very well defined because each piece is a job being occupied by a person to whom the maximum is demanded.

Fco Fermin Galduf (Coach y director del Instituto Gabou)


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