As I sit down to write, I’ve had a quieter month and time to catch my breath. I’m very grateful to be able to take some time to refocus and recharge my batteries – such an important part of life, as I’m sure you will agree. Another very important part of life is being happy, and this month it is something that has been a recurring theme, so read on…..
After receiving messages in the last few weeks from ladies who are settling into their first jobs and starting to get into the groove, one question keeps resurfacing: “How do I deal with an unpleasant crew member / Chief Stew / captain?” This can be tricky, as they are your “boss” and you want to make sure you handle the situation correctly. There are a few ways to look at the situation that may help curb your anxiety:
- It may be you! Working on a yacht or any new environment will involve some adjustment; this can take time. So, if you are getting some uphill from another – especially senior – crew member, stop and think about what they are saying to you. We often go on the defensive, especially when we are out of our comfort zones, thinking “it’s not me”, “I’m not wrong”. Just step back for a moment and be honest with yourself. Are you maybe overstepping or taking something too personally? Remember, as a senior crew member, they have a responsibility to the guests or Captain. If something is not right or goes wrong, they are the ones to answer for it – not you. So, they may be hard on you for this reason. A yacht does not play by the same rules as every other job, and you need to make sure you are fitting into those rules.
- It may be them! Some people are in positions that they are not always qualified to be in. Maybe they were the only one available for the job and it was thrust upon them. So, they may feel insecure and worry that people will realise they don’t really know what they are doing. This will lead them to deflect onto others; making other people look and feel incompetent makes them feel better. Fear is a very powerful thing and it causes people to act in a way that may not always be productive or positive. Maybe they are dealing with personal issues that you are unaware of and bear the brunt of it. Again, as humans we tend to take out our bad feelings on others around us. No, it’s not a healthy way to deal with these things, but life and humans are very rarely perfect. In these cases, you need to look behind the mask; it may not be personal, and maybe a little kindness and understanding are in order. Consider being the bigger person. And then, of course, sometimes people are just mean. Whatever the case, try not to let it get to you and stay out of the line of fire as best you can.
- It may have nothing to do with you! Sometimes, you aren’t the “victim”, but someone else is being bullied in your team, and you hate seeing them being made to feel bad or unhappy. A lot of the time we want to fight other people’s battles and while this is a very noble cause, it is not your battle to fight. Getting involved may be detrimental to your position, and while nobody should ever be treated badly, you need to let them fight their own battles. Show support by being a friend, not by taking responsibility for them. That means acknowledging the situation and helping them to deal with it, without getting involved yourself. A word of caution: being supportive is not about jumping on the bandwagon about what a horrible person the other crew member is and adding fuel to the fire. Let me tell you, if the you-know-what hits the fan, you do not want to be part of the storm that follows! Also, I refer you to point 1 above: it may be them.
So how do you deal with the above? My suggestion is always honesty, which is hard. Very few of us like confrontation, and instead of getting to the root of a problem we will bury our heads in the sand and be quietly resentful until something happens, and it all blows up into DRAMA!
So, if it is you, approach the person in confidence at a time that allows you to speak to them in a calm and uninterrupted manner. Tell the person how you feel and ask if maybe there is something that you are unaware of that you are doing to incur their negative attention. Be prepared to maybe hear some things about yourself you don’t like, and decide whether you think they are valid or not. But above all: remain CALM. You cannot fight with someone who will not fight with you. Write down your points on a piece of paper and take it with you if you need to – it helps if you are nervous. But, ladies and gentlemen be mature and level-headed about the situation. Talk to a friend beforehand to get a second opinion. Taking a third party’s perspective can help you see past your emotion in the subject. Most times, this will help, and you can move forward in a positive and happier manner.
If it still makes no difference, well, it’s a case of making a choice. Can you smile and wave for the season to make sure you get a good reference and a solid bit of longevity on your CV? Or is it going to make you so miserable that you need to cut your losses? Life is about choices, and you are the only one who can control your situation. Also remember that sometimes something may seem like the end of the world today but by tomorrow afternoon it has been forgotten; yachting moves that quickly. Often things are a storm in a teacup. You have the power to decide how much you will let it get to you or be a problem.
I have found that I have been able to apply this kind of thinking to other areas of my life – not just in my jobs on yachts. I have also learnt from the other side how to try very hard not to let my own personal shortcomings spill over on to how I deal with people, especially in my time as a Chief Stew.
When I took on my first Chief Stew role I was stepping into some very big shoes – those of the captain’s wife! So, I was very nervous, and I know I didn’t always deal with people and situations as well as I could have. But hindsight and maturity are wonderful things. If I knew then what I did now, hopefully I would have done it better. Often, though, people thought I was being hard on them because I was being mean, when in actual fact I was being hard on them because it was my job and they had a job to do too, one which I was ultimately responsible and answerable for. So, there’s are always two sides of the same coin, and a good reason we need to all look at ourselves and then to others when we are experiencing a problem.
My overall message is this: don’t let people treat you badly, deal with it in a mature and honest way and don’t let it jeopardise your position at work. The choice is yours and the power is yours. Sometimes it may be best to take a lesson from the penguins of Madagascar, “smile and wave boys, smile and wave”.
So, until next month take care and keep smiling, and “waving” if the occasion calls for it.