Career Advice

Tips to Maintaining Grace Under Pressure

11 June 2020By Kylie O'Brien
iStock/Planet Flem

Written by

Kylie O'Brien

Kylie O’Brien has worked on some of the world’s most magnificent vessels with amazing people for more than 13 years. A graduate of The Australian College of Applied Psychology, she is the author of Crew Wanted, The Stewardess Bible, The Chief Stewardess Bible, The Inside Job, and has been a monthly contributor to Dockwalk magazine for more than five years.

Recently, the world has seen unprecedented changes to our “normal’’ way of life, and my thoughts and prayers often turn to the brave frontline staff who are battling this nasty global pandemic. Over and over again in the media, we see doctors and nurses naturally displaying grace under enormous pressure during this testing period. 

As the great Ernest Hemingway once said, “Courage is grace under pressure.” In light of the worldwide pandemic, there’s a strange sort of irony to this topic. For the essential workers across the globe, this could not be more appropriate. But what does this mean for the interior crew, as they usually are not confronted with such horrendous circumstances? Here’s how not to crack under pressure when things are falling apart around you.

It’s Out of Your Control 

As a seasoned yachtie, you would probably like to think that you have everything under control. But the reality is that things do go wrong on board more often than not. And in general, the various factors are completely out of your control. Hypothetically speaking, there may be a guest who likes to party just a little too much and falls overboard in a drunken state. Members of the crew may fall sick and leave you and your team short-handed. Or you may be caught off guard by Mother Nature, who decides to throw up a storm seemingly from out of nowhere. 

Keep It Together 

Simply speaking, grace under pressure means maintaining your demeanor, style, and dignity when one or more challenging things are demanding your attention at the same time. In other words, keep it together no matter what is thrown your way. Don’t panic, hit the bottle, scream at people, or collapse in a big blubbering mess on the floor.

Let’s talk about a hypothetical situation: The yacht is underway with charter guests on board, and it was hit by some unexpected bad weather. Two stewardesses are unwell and are below deck in their cabins. The yacht has to be stowed as things are flying about and the guests need attention as 10 out of the 12 guests on board are also seasick. What would you do?

Be like the frontline staff who are battling this overwhelming global pandemic — take a step-by-step approach, and keep your cool.

Here’s the pragmatic approach: The interior standard operating procedures are in place for a reason. Keep calm and analyze the situation in a collected and logical manner. Next, look at the pressing circumstances and calmly make a plan of action using common sense. Remember to remain level-headed and be as resourceful and efficient as you can with the tools you have available.

For example, send the remaining members of your team to quickly secure the interior while you attend to the guests’ needs. Should the guests need more attention, then ask your extended team for help. If the deck is already secure and tied down, then ask some members of the deck crew to help secure the cabins.

Be Present

Stay in the moment and zoom out to avoid the drama, even if the yacht is being thrown from pillar to post. Things may be smashing around you and people may be sick, but remember to take a step back and stay in the now. This will allow you to see things clearly, which will enable you to prioritize tasks more effectively and get the most important things under control sooner. Trust yourself and have confidence in your management skills. Do not get caught up in the drama of the person who is complaining the most or someone else’s sense of urgency.

A Change of Perspective

Maybe the stress is ongoing because of a conflict with a member of your team. This is when you can choose to be the light over the darkness. Try not to get caught up in your emotions or your need to be right. Further, if you’re struggling to see the truth or both sides of the story, then try to place yourself in the shoes of your foe. No one is perfect and we all know that working on a yacht can be particularly difficult if you have nowhere to vent your emotions in a positive way (like going on a good run or having a long chat with an old friend).

Displaying grace under pressure is not an unrealistic skill for a superyacht stewardess to master. And many captains will expect this behavior from their chief stewardess and her team. Remember to be pragmatic in your approach to problem-solving. Remain down to earth, use your common sense, and be realistic with timelines, resources, and tools at your disposal. Be like the frontline staff who are battling this overwhelming global pandemic — take a step-by-step approach, and keep your cool. Things always have a way of working out well in the end.  

This article originally ran in the June 2020 issue of Dockwalk.

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