Dealing with Attitudes

The Islander – August 2016

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40% of crew claimed unfair treatment or bullying

This can range from a crew member’s demeanour; head down, dragging their heels and sighing, to full-on rudeness, back chatting and bullying. Unfortunately we are not only talking about Junior Crew’s behaviour, but that of some Senior Crew too, particularly double standards and not dealing with crew issues.

From our crew turnover survey – 40% of crew claimed they had experienced some form of unfair treatment or bullying. Crew turnover amongst Junior Stews is particularly high - 78% left within 1 year, half stated that they would have stayed longer had crew attitudes on board changed. And before you say it’s a girl thing, 69% of Junior Deck Crew also left within 12 months and half of this group gave them same reasons.

All too often crew vote with their feet – if the issues are not resolved, they leave to find pastures new. “Maybe they would leave anyhow” I hear you say, maybe, maybe not. I recall chatting with a chef just before the MYS – she was explaining to me that she had made the decision to stay on her current boat, which was only ever meant to be a delivery from NZ to Monaco. Her reason….. “With my experience I should really be on a much larger yacht and of course on more money – but I’ve made the decision to stay with this one. We are the dream team, the Captain is great as are the crew. Sure I could move and earn more money, but would I be as happy – I doubt it, I’ve had my fair share of crew issues over the years – I’m staying put, at least for a couple of years, money doesn’t buy you happiness!”

So what’s at play here? And why is it so hard to deal with attitudes? If a crew member is doing something wrong because they don’t know any better, that’s easy, educate them – problem solved!

But what if they do know better, but choose to behave inappropriately? Whether they are actively bullying other crew or just bringing the atmosphere in the crew mess down – how do you tackle it?  You could try saying - “Change your attitude!” But we all know that doesn’t work. What about “Change your attitude or you’re fired!” That might work …. for a day or two.

To get a change in behaviour, you need to get under their skin and understand what is driving it. Are they feeling insecure? Do they think it will gain them respect from other crew? Basic conflict resolution can go a long way to both understand and solve the problem.

  • Deal with the situation early, don’t let it become the new standard
  • Manage crew’s expectations from day 1 – weekends off are the norm or a treat?
  • Stay calm and use assertive behaviours
  • Separate the behaviour from the person – and make it clear that you are addressing the challenging behaviour or attitude and nothing else
  • Show appreciation of what they do well, or ways in which they help you – any positive aspects of your working relationship
  • Try to find out what the cause is – ask lots of open questions
  • Let them know you are listening, by paraphrasing what they say
  • If it is the current situation then find out what is going to make it right and help them calm down
  • Point out the negative effects of their behaviour on other people
  • Ask them to identify what they can do differently to improve
  • Agree to discuss again in the near future to track progress

It’s much easier to teach a willing person a new skill, than to change the behaviour of a negative individual – but definitely worth the effort. Burying your head in the sand will not make the problem go away and can cause issues to escalate.

If you need support in dealing with crew issues, Impact Crew is here to help. We have a team of highly experienced coaches who can work with you over the phone or Skype and in confidence to expand your range of people management skills and deal with challenging behaviours. The industry is awash with courses to help increase crew’s professional skills. When you find yourself in a leadership role, 80% of your time is about dealing with people, so give yourself a fighting chance and develop these skills too.

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