When to Give Marching Orders

Firing staff is never a fun or easy undertaking. You are essentially taking away another person’s livelihood. Having to discipline insubordinate and problematic staff, however, isn’t something you should have to deal with either. So how do you decide when to stop handing out warnings to a crew member who doesn’t seem to learn, and just fire them?

Ask yourself these 5 questions before making a career altering decision:


  1. What went wrong? Why, how and when?

In order to appropriately deal with a problematic crew member you need to identify and understand the problem. Find the root cause; when the troubles began. More often than not issues that arise are circumstantial. A deckhand might be acting out because he feels like he was disrespected or treated badly by his superior. If you are conscientious about your investigation you will find that the crew member might not necessarily need to be fired. It could be a matter that requires a mediated meeting/discussion.

When you endeavour to understand your crew members, what upsets them and what brings them joy you will foresee conflict and be in a better position to quash it.


  1. How will firing this crew member affect the team dynamic?

For the most part crew members are hired and yacht teams consolidated before the start of season. It takes a great deal of orientation and training to get crew working seamlessly and in unison. An unexpected change (whether firing a crew member or replacing them) might mess with the team dynamic.

By no means are we endorsing sticking with disruptive staff to avoid having to hire and vet new crew. Getting rid of a troublesome staff will communicate to your crew that if they mess up they will be dealt with accordingly, however putting that added pressure onto a department that is down one member might add animosity to an already tense situation. Consider this before terminating a contract with a crew member.


  1. How can you avoid firing the crew member in question?

Suppose you’ve handed out numerous written warnings, confronted the problematic crew member with verbal warnings, tried reorganising the staff members daily tasks and responsibilities. You might think you’ve done all that you can. This is when you can call on the support of the rest of the team.

Although we are against reprimanding a crew member in front of the rest of the crew; consider having an open discussion. The crew member in question might be motivated to perform better and/or stop misbehaving if he sees his actions have consequences outside himself, that they affect the rest of the yacht crew too. Teamwork is tantamount to the success of any yacht service. Once you get the disgruntled crew member to understand and believe in that they may begin to work better.

It is also important to ask yourself if you provided enough support and guidance to your crew. You owe it to all your staff, both strong and weak, to offer them as much support as possible (without having to baby them of course).


  1. If this crew member were to resign, how would you feel?

If your answer is satisfied, then maybe you should let the crew member go. But, again, ask yourself why? If your relief is coming from no longer being burdened with a crew member who is going to call you to order when you aren’t being the best leader you can be then perhaps you need staff that keep you on your toes. Take him or her aside and appeal to them that they come talk to you personally instead of compromising your authority in front of the rest of the crew. This does not mean that you have to accept your staff talking to you in any way they want, you still run the show.

The success of your yacht service is heavily dependant on every crew member pulling their weight and adding value to the yacht. If  you come to realise that one particular crew member leaving the vessel wouldn’t rock the boat then there’s no use having them there.


  1. Did you make a bad hire?

With matters as sensitive and potentially life-changing as these it is vital that everyone involved be completely honest. This might demand that you take some accountability for your part in the conflict. Perhaps you were so desperate for a crew member that you rushed through the interviewing process. Perhaps you ignored obvious warning signs because you had limited time and even more limited options for candidates.

Perhaps you made a bad hire.

Once you acknowledge your mistake you are in a better position to correct it. This might mean letting the candidate go because they aren’t fit to work on the yacht or you’ll have to work harder to get the crew member up to scratch. The responsibility is as much yours as it is the crew member as their performance will inevitably reflect on you.

Being a leader is rarely easy, especially when you have to make tough calls about whether to hire, keep or fire crew members. Ask yourselves the five critical questions and you’ll find you have more confidence and resolve in you final decision, whatever it might be. Also, remember to trust yourself. You were given the responsibility of leading because you are more than capable to do so. All the best.