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Help! I’ve Made a Bad Hire!

May 5th 11
By Claire Griffiths

A drunk and disorderly deckhand? Bring it on. Breach of contract by the chef? No problem, we’ve got the rulebook for those situations. Sack ’em down the gangplank and sleep sound as a baby. Guide lines for dismissal are contained in articles 9 and 11 of the British Merchant Navy Code of Conduct explains Capt. Evariste Martine of M/Y African Cat, who ruefully adds that if you are not a British citizen or resident, recourse for wrongful dismissal is tough.


But when crew turn out to be crashing bores, mind-bendingly annoying or just plain “wrong” for the job, things get tricky. 


“You can’t just sack someone because they turn out to be a bit strange several months down the line from their trial period,” says Capt. Andy Golightly of M/Y Australis. There’s no real way of telling if a new crewmember will morph into a fruitcake the minute the ink dries on the employment contract. “You need to take the trial period seriously,” Golightly says. “It’s the only time you can get rid of someone and you’ve got to be sure you’re doing the right thing.”Crew who do “rock the boat” down in the mess need to be handled carefully. “Give everyone a chance,” suggests Golightly. “A quiet chat to say things need to change [can make the difference]. People fall out with each other – one month they’re friends, the next they’re not.”


But it’s not just character flaws or bad conduct that turn crew into square pegs trying to fit into round holes – sometimes it’s just bad luck. “If the owner takes a dislike to [the] crewmember, there’s not much anyone can do,” explains Capt. Murray of M/Y Lady Christine. “It’s the owner’s boat at the end of the day, despite all the rules and regulations. If the owner takes a dislike to someone, usually there’s a reason – like they’re lazy on deck – but it all depends on each individual case,” says Murray. “Things and people can change,” he adds. “You’re working in a really close community on board – attitudes change, but you have to have a really good reason to fire someone.”


Murray has heard of plenty of cases in which crew were sacked unfairly – such as the captain who lost his job because the chief stew started dating the owner and she wanted to get rid of him, for example. Foreign languages alien to your skill set can be tricky, too. “I know of a captain working for a Russian owner who had a Russian stew. Without [the captain’s] knowledge, she undermined him and his command to the point where she managed to get him fired,” Murray recounts.


For Liz Cox, Senior Yacht Manager at Edmiston, “wrong” crew aren’t necessarily in the wrong. “Hand overs to new owners often are tricky to handle when the new owner wants to replace the existing crew. The only way to [deal with] it is to have an open and honest discussion with the crew – treat them fairly, pay them appropriately, give them good references and do what you can to help them find work because the situation is not their fault,” advises Cox. Some owners give existing crew a chance, but not all, “It happens fairly frequently and it often depends on the age of the boat and the experience of the crew,” she says.


Related Topics:

Top 10 Management Must-Dos for Captains 

Symbiotic Relationship: Newbies and Seasoned Crew 

The X Factor 






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  • What about seasonal contracts? That way crew and employers unhappy crew and employers have an out.
    Posted by Dean_1 06/05/2011 14:12:37

  • The worst is when you have been on a yacht for several years and then a new captain comes on that doesn't like you...
    Posted by DKK 06/05/2011 01:21:47

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