Crew with Attitude

The Islander – February 2020

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get under their skin and understand what is driving this behaviour

Many crew join a yacht with a great attitude; full of enthusiasm (which may sometimes need harnessing!), motivated and eager to learn. So why is it that we find some people on board whose attitudes have changed from a ‘will do’ to a ‘won’t do’ mindset?

This is not a problem confined to Junior Crew. Some Senior Crew can demonstrate less than aspirational behaviours. Complacency, a sense of entitlement, and issues at home or off the boat can all be possible reasons behind poor on board attitudes.”. Whatever the cause, if the behaviour is not addressed, the rot from that one bad apple will start to spread amongst the crew.

Unfortunately, not everyone is comfortable tackling the issues of poor behaviour and bad attitudes, especially when it comes to senior crew. But one of the most important leadership requirements is fair and equal treatment of every crew member, regardless of rank. Failure to apply the same standards to everyone will more than likely see crew voting with their feet and heading for a boat where they do feel they’ll be treated fairly. Whether they are actively bullying, dragging their heels 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 so, but lasting change needs to first get to the root cause of the problem.

To bring about a lasting change in behaviour, the individual needs to actually want to change. And it’s hard to have that level of influence unless you get under their skin and understand what is driving this behaviour. Are they feeling insecure? Or did they have different expectations of the situation they now find themselves in?

Basic conflict resolution can go a long way towards both understanding and solving the problem.

  • Deal with the issue early. Don’t let it become the new standard
  • Manage crew’s expectations from day 1 – weekends off are the norm or a treat?
  • 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. Highlight the positive aspects of your working relationship
  • Try to find out what the cause is, ask lots of open questions to get under their skin
  • Let them know you are listening by paraphrasing what they say
  • If the current situation is the problem, find out what is going to make it right and help them find solutions
  • Point out the negative effect their behaviour is having on themselves as well as others
  • Ask them to identify what they can do differently to improve
  • Be calm. Wait until you are in control of your emotions before initiating the conversation
  • 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, however difficult the process may be, addressing the issues can bring about positive results that will be felt throughout the crew, while ignoring the matter will only lead to more problems

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.