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Contextual factors affecting moral stress: a study of military and police officers

Peder Hyllengren (Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership, Swedish Defence University, Karlstad, Sweden)
Sofia Nilsson (Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership, Swedish Defence University, Karlstad, Sweden)
Alicia Ohlsson (Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership, Swedish Defence University, Karlstad, Sweden)
Kjell Kallenberg (Department of Management, Örebro University Hospital, Orebro, Sweden)
Gudmund Waaler (Department of Leadership, Royal Norwegian Naval Academy, Bergen, Norway)
Gerry Larsson (Department of Security, Strategy and Leadership, Swedish Defence University, Karlstad, Sweden) (Hedmark University College, Elverum, Norway)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 14 November 2016

290

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to identify and gain a deeper understanding of environmental, organizational, and group conditions, and leadership-related issues in particular, in severely stressful situations involving a moral stressor faced by military and police officers.

Design/methodology/approach

A combined deductive and inductive approach was used, and in total 23 military and police officers, all having experience of morally difficult decisions during severely stressful conditions, were interviewed.

Findings

A hierarchical conceptual framework of contextual characteristics was developed. The environmental, organizational, leadership-related, and group aspects identified in this study on morally stressful situations resemble findings from general research on work and stress. However, a stronger emphasis was put on leaders’ handling of values and his or her ability to confront senior management when needed.

Practical implications

The results suggest that well-documented methods aimed at the prevention of, and recovery from, work-related stress, also can be used in the case of extreme situations involving moral stressors.

Originality/value

The interplay between leadership and extreme situations involving moral stressors is, to the best of the knowledge, understudied.

Keywords

Citation

Hyllengren, P., Nilsson, S., Ohlsson, A., Kallenberg, K., Waaler, G. and Larsson, G. (2016), "Contextual factors affecting moral stress: a study of military and police officers", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 275-288. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPL-04-2016-0019

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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