Workplace conflicts in yachting are extremely common. Yachting is an environment where the work is often stressful and the pressure is high, therefore disagreements or fallouts between crew members are sometimes unavoidable. It is quite possible that we will need to have uncomfortable conversations with our fellow crew members in order to avoid major conflict.

The key to successful relationships is communication, and in turn, a breakdown of communication tends to derail our relationships with others.¬†Read on to discover how best to handle conflicts onboard your vessel…

Workplace conflicts in yachting are common
Graphic by Melissa McFeeters

When we leave things unsaid in the workplace about issues that bother us, emotions and feelings can fester, leading to outbursts later on. Imagine heading out on a transatlantic crossing with a crew member whose habits annoy you on a daily basis. You might want to voice your irritation before setting sail for three weeks. An issue might be as simple as your cabin mate leaving their clothes on the floor, or more complicated like inappropriate language.

You might be hesitant to bring up the habits that irk you about your crew mates, but it’s almost certain that bringing up your grievances in a healthy and considerate way will strengthen your ability to work together.

In order to have successful conversations with fellow crew members, you may wish to follow these guidelines:

Follow Your Values

Preparing to have a difficult conversation can cause us to question wether our feelings on a certain subject are even justifiable, the answer to this is to always lead with your core values, as in: what do you believe in?

It is more important for you to raise an issue with a colleague if something you witness in the workplace is not aligning with your core values rather than allowing this behaviour to continue. In yachting, many different nationalities and backgrounds intertwine, so it is also worth remembering that something obviously wrong to you might be less obvious to others.

Don’t Let Nerves Get The Better Of You

If you are someone that struggles to have tricky conversations, or someone who shies away from conflict, it can be nerve wracking to raise an issue, but in order to solve workplace conflict you need to express how you feel. At the very least, raising irritations or expressing your views will give you a sense of relief and, at best, allow you to move forward in a more positive way.

Practice Empathy

If you need to have a difficult conversation with a crew member that is based on their behaviour or their personality, tread carefully and consider the language that you will use beforehand. The aim is never to personally insult someone. Try to avoid language that might come across as patronising or aggressive and consider the other person’s feelings. Try to imagine the situation from their point of view rather than simply being angry about it, there might be something underlying that is causing the person to behave in this way.

Be Assertive But Kind

Most would agree that direct and clear communication can actually diminish the possibility of workplace conflict in yachting, and will help crew members to avoid lengthy explanations later down the line. This type of communication may push you out of your comfort zone at first, but most crew will be able to understand that it is not a personal attack.

And lastly, try not to take it all too seriously. Try to ask yourself wether this issue will matter in a year or even a month’s time. Most things blow over naturally.¬†Remembering this can help you to stay calm and keep your emotions from boiling over. With better communication we can avoid workplace conflicts in yachting, and create fun and productive environments onboard.


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