An analysis of the effects of occupational stress in Military operational readiness: a case of the Botswana Defence Force
PublisherUniversity of Botswana, www.ub.bw
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Occupational stressors exist in every organisation though their degree may vary from one individual and occupation to another respectively. Some stressors are common to all occupations whereas some are unique to specific occupation. Although stress affects all organisations, it affects military more because of the critical environment in which they operate. This phenomenon of occupational stress which is more pronounced in the military, impact on military operational readiness. Research has shown that occupational stress in the military is not just limited to high intensity conflicts in which killing and life threatening situations occur frequently but also modern military operations such as peace enforcing, peace supporting and humanitarian operations have also proven to be stressful. Since Botswana Defence Force (BDF) is exposed to the modern military operations, it is evident that they experience operational and non-operational stress which need to be addressed because it affects their operational readiness. Therefore, this study analysed the effects of occupational stress to military operational readiness in the Botswana Defence Force and the extent to which Botswana Defence Force personnel are affected. It is evident from this that the sources of occupational stress in the BDF among others include but not limited to; work overload, role ambiguity, work relationships, danger and isolation. This occupational stress has adverse effects to military operational readiness in the BDF because it leads to poor work performance, lack of interest in the job and low morale. Furthermore, these effects of occupational stress have been evidenced by the incidences and accidents that BDF has experienced. The study concluded that mitigating against these effects requires stress coping strategies or stress management interventions. However, stress coping strategies or interventions available in the organisation are focused on targeting the individual as opposed to the work environment which gives temporary coping measure. Even though it is difficult for an organisation like the BDF or any other military to change because it has a strong tradition where each job is role based and highly dependent on hierarchy, it is the recommendation of this study that BDF should adopt job re-design and organisational change as the ultimate approaches to stress management because they focus in removing the sources of problems in the work environment instead of leaving or expecting an individual to deal with it alone. This is because it is evident that targeted interventions should be both for the institution and the individual in order to improve military operational readiness. Additionally, the BDF should foster as part of stress intervention management, an awareness of mental health in the military, in order to reduce the stigma of suffering from occupational stress. With these interventions military operational readiness in the BDF can be kept at optimal levels.