Discussions: How to Deal with Difficult Seafarers on Ships?

At some point or the other, we all have come across cranky, bitter and insanely pesky colleagues and subordinates onboard ships. More often than not, it is “unpleasant and discomforting” each time you have to deal with such difficult people. But the fact remains that, we time and again have to occupationally face them for our remaining days onboard. Sometimes, the reason is not clear enough if someone decides to dislike you, whereas on other times, in spite of knowing the reason, you feel there is nothing much you can do about it. Either ways, you have to find a way to deal with such type of seafarers on board ship.

Horrid situations are built up at times, some even at the spur of the moment triggering off a professional sabotage. Dealing with such seafarers at sea with little or no psychological aid around can be worrisome. While you can’t instigate them into liking you all of a sudden, you surely can work on your shortcomings and lessen the negativities at least to say, professionally.

Photograph by Emmanuel Ephraim

Change is good, so is the change of atmosphere at work. Professional barricades at sea can lead to an unsafe work culture. According to the grapevine, one of the reasons behind such behavior is the imminence of other pessimistic co-workers at the work space, in this case, onboard the ships.

So, how does one go about controlling the aggravating situation onboard by getting indirectly involved in amending attitudes of such difficult people towards you?

Handle such seafarers carefully

Tyrants seem to be everywhere, onboard ships too. Dealing with such unreliable autocrats, who seem to have a thing for back stabbing or are simply jealous of your work can be a bit complicated. These guys who have their knife on you can prove to be a thorn in the stem of your performance.

Such seafarers can be treated by understanding the real issues behind their actions towards you, maybe by talking to them directly or by getting others to talk about them. It is suggested that if you indicate to be willing to work together, things should be more or less sorted out. You should strictly stick to the basics and keep your attitude professional. Show them your good side by resolving their issues. Be watchful of what you share with them in general. And lastly be firm of your limitations using utmost discretion.

Set your limits and confront

Setting limits with rudely behaving seafarers must be done if you notice something that they have said or done was bad. Confrontation is not the way out especially at sea, which can only make things worse. Facing the same difficult people often is another occupational jolt. So, if this problem continues to persist and you have tried communicating unsuccessfully, it is always better to approach the departmental heads and discuss the matter with them clearly. And yes, do involve the other party as well.

Breaking the Ice

Another simple technique to deal with such unpleasant seafarers is to have a positive attitude in life.

‘Forcing’ a change of attitude in them towards you might not help, instead take the first step by interacting with them and by also involving them inexplicitly considering their opinions, advises /suggestions or conclusions. A possible way to break the ice can be by complementing them well.

Offer some help

Humans in general are emotional. Seafarers do not have the psychological advantage over a lot of personal issues chiefly because they are away from their families and friends for a length of time. This fact could easily trigger a boiler. Offering help to such a tricky person demonstrating an eagerness to comprehend the person’s frustration should be your best step. At sea, time is valuable so keep in mind that you have to maintain this relationship for strictly professional reasons. Do not go overboard in trying to act pacifier.

Spend time with difficult people

Getting to know your co-seafarer better is great. It is also noticed that having some fun time during get-togethers or by being socially present aboard make a lot of difference in improving the interpersonal relationships. Avoid alcohol onboard as far as possible. We all know the side-kicks of it and especially when trying to adapt with difficult people.

Getting mentally battered and letting it affect your work is definitely not the answer when dealing with such cohorts, especially when it comes to seeing the same faces over time. From having a healthy work environment at sea, along with being productive professionally, sound relationships go a long way together.

Further Reading

Ways to avoid professional politics on ships

6 ways to improve interpersonal relationship among seafarers on board ships

The importance of having the right attitude in life

Stress and ways to fight it on board ships


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About Author

Bikram Pal Singh – is a professional mariner and blogger. He has sailed extensively serving on various Oil tankers and Offshore Vessels. Currently a Chief Officer, he enjoys reading and compiling notes about critical shipboard operations and crew psychology. When not sailing, he loves backpacking, is an ardent adventurer and a certified diver.

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