Superyacht Stewardess

Conflict is drama, and how people deal with conflict shows you the kind of people they are.

- Stephen Moyer

For many in the hospitality or service industry for that matter would have heard the expression “the customer is always right”, and I guess for many this is true. But what about dealing with conflict that may occur with your colleagues or that guest is just step too far over the line (yes there is a line!). This article will examine boundaries and how to handle conflict in a manner that won't break your spirit or destroy your belief system.

The Super Yacht Stewardess & Conflict Management.

“Conflict usually occurs when two or more individuals demonstrate differing needs, and can occur between employees, management and customers”.

Sadly, conflict for many of us is unavoidable and is a part of life; how it is resolved can make the difference between positive and negative outcomes for all parties involved.

Given that there is a very high turnover of professional crew from season to season, I believe that conflict resolution is an important element for senior officers and departmental heads to master. Furthermore,I believe that is equally as important for individuals to take personal responsibility and accountability for their actions in the conflict.

Conflict within the crew:

We are shaped by family, culture and experiences, which can at times create a polarizing effect with colleagues. Each conflict is unique and can have its own dimensions and behaviors to the conflict situation.

This in turn can affect work performance and have a negative impact on the individual who is already under the pressures of the hospitality industry. Due to the very nature of working at sea, there are limited resources to 'de-stress', lack of personal space, cramped crew accommodations, and long work shifts can result in poor work performance,  and even depression.

Conflict may occur for many reasons, some may include:

  • Poor communication processing.
  • Exhaustion and stress due to the nature of the work.
  • Personality clashes.
  • Poor interdepartmental cooperation
  • Poor internal culture created by a senior crew (i.e. Captain, Chief Engineer, Chief Officer).
  • Hierarchical dominance and lack of respect for fellow colleagues.
  • Sexual social difference and behaviors.

In my experience, conflict within the crew usually occurred due to a combination of two or more of the above points. Professional super yacht crew in general is usually very nice open minded people, therefore it is unusual that conflict will arise due to one reason only.

Furthermore, (and this point is specifically in relation to the interior department, that consists predominantly of women), in my experience I found that avoidance of the initial irritation led to an escalation in the conflict, which required more energy and resources to mediate.

The difference in the genders on board also results in the difference in behavior. For example,conflict on deck seemed to be resolved faster and with greater ease than that of the interior department.

However, conflict between genders took much longer and seemed to linger on and on. This difference in gender behavior can be researched independently, however, my hypothesis for this is that many women working in a male dominated industry (for various reasons) feel highly stressed, which alters their psychological state, and can affect their sensitivity and effect how they communicate effectively.


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The Super Yacht Stewardess & Conflict Management.

More about The Super Yacht Stewardess & Conflict Management is in my new book:

The Stewardess Bible: Achieving Excellence in Service - Module One.



If you want to bring an end to long-standing conflict, you have to be prepared to compromise.

- Aung San Suu Kyi

Conflict with a guest: Case Study - Conflict with your values.

In this case study I will use an example where the conflict occurred against my inner values and belief system.

We were half way through a very busy 2 week charter, yes, I know all charters are busy, however we were travelling with another yacht, in and around the St Tropez area .

Everything was going well until one day it was our turn to host the cocktail party. The conflict occurred when one of our guests was showing off to another guest , he was a hunter and was boasting that he had shot over 5000 birds (of some kind) one of his hunting trips.

The next statement he made was even more damaging. He went on to say that he had shot and killed a black rhinoceros on his last African safari. He was bursting with pride. As my stomach was turning I looked over and saw the horror and absolute devastation on the South African deckhands face as he was tiding up the sundeck.

My first instinct was to protect the deckhand from hearing any more of what this guest had to say and he was removed from that area to work in another. Secondly, I had to check my own behavior and body language.

The thing about conflict with your inner values is that they are your values. I don't know if what the guest said is true or not and that is exactly the point. People say things for different reasons. Killing an endangered species is illegal, and killing anything for fun just makes me feel sick, however hunting is not illegal and the feeling sick part becomes my problem.

How would you handle such a situation?

Kylie O'Brien
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Kylie O'Brien

Author, Writer & Founder at The Stewardess Bible
Kylie is an Ex - Superyacht Chief Stewardess, and Hotel Manager from Sydney, Australia. Passionate about sharing information, you can find her typing up a storm in her small home office, or breathing in the cool wind off the North Sea, in Zeeland, Netherlands.
Kylie O'Brien
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