Q: Steve, Deckhand, 27
I've been on my current yacht for 3 years and joined the same time as another guy. We went through everything together as mates, in and out of work.
The sad thing is that now we are looking at climbing the ranks, things are changing. My ‘mate’ often tries to ‘put one over me’ to show greater authority, turn things around to make himself look better and sucks up to our HOD's. I've spoken to him about it and said let’s be mates and keep it real and he agreed, then went straight back to being this irritating new person! It's really sad because I'm losing a mate but also it looks like his technique is working. What can I do?
A: The Crew Coach:
This kind of situation happens in any career when people start moving up the ladder, but it’s much harder in yachting when you live with your colleagues and form strong friendships with people who later become rivals for promotion. It sounds like you’ve tried to deal with the situation honestly and with maturity, and it’s great that you’re asking for professional advice as it’s a common problem in yachting and you’re very far from alone in dealing with it.
Moving up through your yachting career needs to be done strategically. This doesn’t mean you need to sell out and trample on people as you climb the rungs, but it does mean you need to be savvy about how things work. Your colleague in this situation has one thing right (but is apparently going about it the wrong way), in that he understands that he needs to call some attention to the job he is doing and show the Captain and HODs that he is ambitious.
Managing people works both ways, up as well as down. You need to manage how your managers see you - and that means you need to ensure they notice that you are doing a great job. This is hard for lots of us, especially the more humble types who don’t like to call attention to their hard work and would rather wait for someone to notice.
But if they don’t notice your achievements, you need to find ways to make sure they do. You could do something like:
Suggest a personal performance review so you can find out which aspects of your role you are fulfilling well and where you could improve. This shows that you are ambitious and want to add the most possible value to the yacht.
Ask them what qualities they are looking for in the person they would promote to the next level. Bear in mind that for this to happen, someone else has to move out of the way - and that might be the person you are talking to! So be careful and clever about how you ask this. Make it clear you are asking them as a mentor, not because you are angling for their job.
If you and your friend are technically on the same level, you could consider asking your HOD to clarify who has responsibility for which duties - that way you could be the ‘boss’ of one aspect of the deck and he could be the ‘boss’ of another, meaning you both have authority but in different areas.
When it comes to your ‘friend’, don’t forget that although this guy might appear to be getting a lot of attention, it may not all be good. Others may be noticing his underhanded tactics and they might not like it either. This person is almost certainly acting out of insecurity and people often pick up on this even subconsciously, as it makes them uncomfortable. So don’t worry, he is no doubt doing more damage than good to his reputation.
Your best line of defence is to do your job as well as you possibly can, and get along with everyone as well as you possibly can. That means doing kind and considerate things for your fellow crew whenever possible, and being genuine and authentic.
Integrity goes a very long way in this industry - remember, people will soon forget what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
If all else fails you may find that you need to move to another yacht in order to move up - and after 3 years on one yacht, that is definitely a respectable option. But as this is something you’ll almost certainly come across again in yachting, both in your own career and perhaps one day as a Captain watching others rise through the ranks, it’s important that you give it your best shot to navigate this with professionalism.
Treat it as a learning experience, both in how to ‘sell yourself’ and how to deal with those who sell themselves a little bit too enthusiastically at the expense of others.
Let me know how it works out and best of luck!
Do you have any pointers on how you have handled a similar situation? Let us know in the comments below!