18 Jan

The cruise ship industry is one with a strong hierarchy. All industries have hierarchies, but on cruise ships it’s even more obvious. Officers have their separate mess room where they eat in privacy away from the crew, as well as separate uniforms, etc. When addressing officers you call them by their rank, or sir/madam. I have been told off in front of the dining room team at the menu briefing (where a selected team member presents the menu items each night) for saying in a friendly way to the Head Sommelier “thank you my good friend”, I was told by my superior “he is not your good friend, he is your head sommelier. “I mean… come on.

Another thing I’ve learnt during this job is what I call inward and outward respect. I’ll quote one of my higher authorities in a meeting with the assistant waiters: “I’m your boss, I demand respect”. Following this meeting I displayed outward respect, i.e. no matter what I was asked to do no matter how much I disagreed with it, I would reply “yes sir/madam, certainly.” But my response was hollow, it was like a Louis Vinton hand bag bought on the streets of Bangkok; it was fake. There was no inward respect; I was like a slave who respects his master as he holds the whip.

Sorry. I’m being very negative and general about my officers and authorities in a bad way. This is not really fair – the higher authorities who are like this are in a small minority, and I’ve only come across these strong personalities in the dining and galley environment, which always seems to attract strong personalities. We have a great bunch of officers; in fact, our Captain and staff captain and the other officers I have met are great, down-to-earth, turn up to the staff parties, and have a laugh and they talk to everyone on a friendly basis no matter what your position. For example, today I was serving at the lunch buffet and ask the Captain, “Good afternoon, Captain. How are you doing today?”
He comes close to me with a dead-straight face, and in his long Finnish accent whispers, “I want to jump overboard.” The Captain is classic; a dry sense of humour that I really quite enjoy.

The other side of this experience is that I have been spoken to in the dining room and galley as though I’m a worthless decaying penguin carcass that is infected with some kind of festering penguin disease. People say it’s part of the job, but for me there is no excuse for this kind of attitude. Just because I’m an assistant waiter it doesn’t give people the right to treat me like a penguin carcass and take advantage of my inferior position on the hierarchy.

I think the above is why 90% of the dining room team is Filipino. They have no choice but to put up with this abuse, as they are supporting families back home. And speaking of respect and money… Ummm… well, maybe I’ll leave this topic for my following post…!

To wrap up, in my opinion the only way to earn employees’ respect is to show respect to the employees from whom you wish to earn it. You also have to know your shit (6 star translation – you have to have the required knowledge); you have to know the job better than your employees, and be extremely hardworking. Employees have memories. We remember what bosses say
and there is nothing more deserving of disrespect than a boss that has the ‘do as I say and not as I do’ attitude. And, you must show the employees that their work is appreciated and reward them, with the best reward being, of course, genuine compliments.

Working the world has been a constant work place learning curve, seeing how things are done in different jobs. I’m taking away things that I think are useful, and which I can learn from and put into practice. So I just thought I’d share this little observation with you.

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