When to Say “No” to the Boss

31 August 2010 By Herb Magney

When it is necessary to say “no” to "the boss" – be it the owner of the vessel or the guests who are on charter for the week? Yacht crew are paid to be of service and are relied upon to make dreams come true. Captains are trusted with millions of dollars, not to mention the life or death or possibly disfiguring decisions they have to make daily. But there will be occasions when a captain is asked to do something that s/he feels uncomfortable with. Be it leaving port in the middle of the night in a storm or bringing guns on board, there are certain times when a captain must put his/her foot down, gingerly of course.

When a situation arises and the captain feels s/he may find the need to tell the boss “No,” it is important to take some time to evaluate the possible risks involved: Is what you are being asked to do illegal? Is it impossible due to laws governing nature, just beyond your personal skill set or, maybe, something about which you have personal feelings? When speaking to the guest or owner, captains must be sure not to shoot from the hip, to stick to the facts – having made sure said facts are accurate and up-to-date – and keep his/her opinion to his/herself unless it is asked for.

First, decide why you want to say “no,” before actually saying it. If what you are being asked to do is illegal, then clearly present the legalities and legal consequences of the matter at hand. If what you are being asked to do defies a law of nature, then present the facts as to why you cannot accomplish the task. If what you’ve been asked to accomplish creates a situation in which you would not be able to explain your actions to an insurance investigator, present your reason for saying “No” by basing it on not wanting to create a situation which would nullify the owners’ insurability.

Sometimes a situation will arise that will simply make a captain just plain uncomfortable. If the task that must be performed exceeds your skill set, experience or level of training, then be sure to take time before the conversation to think of the points that must be addressed and be sure they are legitimate points. Before you say “No” to the boss make sure you’re not just saying “I won’t.”

Captains are paid to say “Yes, I understand your desire and will do my personal best to make sure it becomes a reality.” But, there is the limit on your personal best and that could pose problems. Sometimes captains are pushed extremely hard to do things they are not comfortable doing, but the majority of the people they work for did not get to where they are in life by not pushing the envelope in one way or another. Captains should expect this and plan ahead.

Herb Magney is captain of 145-foot Heesen M/Y At Last.