Q: Anonymous, Captain, 41:
Two of my crew went out the other night and brought some girls back to the boat – where they hung out in the hot tub and drank guest champagne all night.
Clearly this is a no-go, and even just bringing crew guests onto the boat is a firing offence as stated in the standing orders, but we’re having a frantically busy season and they are too important to the boat operations to let go right now.
I’m in a very difficult position as the crew all know what happened, so I feel I need to make an example of these two idiots.
I also don’t want to come down too hard on them in case they walk. How do you suggest I deal with the situation?
A: The Crew Coach:
Well isn’t that just the last thing you need at this point of the season. As you say, they’ve broken a major rule, and the other crew all know that you know, and are no doubt waiting to see how you handle it.
The way I see it, you have to come up with a way of punishing them that doesn’t also punish the other crew, the yacht’s owners and yourself, as by firing them now you would put everyone’s season in jeopardy. So you’re right in keeping them on, at least for the time being, but you do need to address the behaviour and make it clear it was completely unacceptable.
Normally I would advise at all costs against telling crew off in front of other crew, but as you need to be seen to be doing something this might be an exception! I think that the embarrassment of a crew mess discussion about the situation might just save it happening again, and it would certainly show the perpetrators you are not going to tolerate this behaviour.
Call a meeting of all crew and explain what happened and why they are all there. Explain to the crew that this still stands as a firing offense and that the only reason you’re not going through with this right now is because you respect the rest of them and don’t want to make things harder on them by having to integrate new crew at this crucial time.
Now here’s where it gets really fun. With the perpetrators there, ask the rest of the crew to come up with a punishment for them. Allow the discussion to go around exploring all the options until you collectively come up with something that is appropriately unpleasant for the two rule breakers, and which you agree is a good punishment.
You’ll be surprised, you may even need to pull it back a little as the others might be quite angry about this and might really want them to suffer!
Some appropriate ideas could be putting them on covering all watches until the end of the season, docking their pay into a crew slush fund to be spent at the end of the season on something they won’t benefit from, making them do unpleasant duties such as cleaning out the grey water tanks, emptying garbage, doing all the red eye watch shifts, etc.
I’m sure your team will come up with some great ideas and this works so well because then it is their tribe punishing them rather than just you, so they are more likely to realise how much they let everyone down.
Explain that this is a warning to everyone else. You have been lenient this time because you want to be fair - but if it does happen again with any member of this crew then you will have no choice but instant dismissal.
To finish, explain that the two guilty guys will be let go at the end of the season unless they prove they shouldn’t be. They are on a final warning but this gives them the opportunity to improve the situation.
Once this has been done, give them a real, honest chance to redeem themselves. Everyone makes mistakes-and I’m sure you can think back on a few from your younger years. You might find they turn their behaviour around and become quite loyal to you for handling this so well.
What would you do? Share your thoughts in the comments below.