I originally wrote this in August, and it’s been sitting waiting for its day to shine ever since. Shine on article, shine on.
Disclaimer: We all react to things differently. If you think my interpretation of these things is crazy, then we have a different personality…imagine that.
Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way let me start by saying that I worked on cruise ships for 7 years for the same company. That’s a long time. That’s a US common-law marriage. If I had lived with my job, we would have to file taxes under a different status. It’s long enough to where you would think I held some kind footing, or perhaps even a bit of seniority with said company since the turnover rate is quite high. Yeah…you would think.
Currently, I might be done with my time at sea. Still figuring that out, but I am realizing the longer I am on this “sabbatical,” the more I am enjoying life. It’s crazy! It’s almost as if working on ships made me unhappy… I can say that it put a decent dent in my self-confidence for sure. And I didn’t used to battle with anxiety before rushing out to sea…
I’ve been slowly becoming aware over the last few months on land that I am happier, but today something clicked. My “land boss” (this may be more than just a summer job as originally intended) told me today she likes my recommendations and input. She said she was impressed with me and that I was doing a good job. She has shared my successes by telling other people that I am doing well. Okay, so yes, one of my strongest love languages is “words of affirmation,” but it should be no surprise to managers that employees appreciate praise, and over the previous 7 years and countless contracts, praise was few and far between.
Lack of praise.
I did a lot of things right in those years. Like, 98% of what I did was above and beyond. That other 2% was pretty much accidental error. And keep in mind it’s a 7 day/week job. That’s a lot of hours doing the right thing. So if I did nearly EVERYTHING well in that time, why was it so rare to hear that I was on track, appreciated, impressive, etc? I would sure as hell heard about it in no time when I did do something wrong. It’s almost like some staff would seek opportunities to point out your errors as a way to feel power.
You find yourself with a lot of suggestions as a seagoing employee of a major cruise line. It would be amazing if people implemented them…or even just listened. Those awesome suggestions might have made the ship run way smoother, given employees better benefits, or even saved the company money. On the other hand, they may not have. Regardless, we would all feel greatly valued if it were apparent that our suggestions were welcomed. When it seems like nothing you say has value, you begin to wonder if you, yourself do.
There’s a huge pyramid of power on ships. In every department. And you are constantly aware of it. You see it everyday, every shift, with the way you are treated and the way you are dressed. You can’t really dress for success or to impress. You wear your position at all times, from stripes on your shoulders to rubber boots on your feet. Your nametag is literally a label of your position and you are treated how they deem appropriate. Finding yourself constantly near the bottom of that oh-so-obvious hierarchy does damage to one’s psyche. In fact, believe it or not, I was not even allowed to contact my land-based supervisor while on contract. I had to do so through my ship-based manager. Permission for everything.
On all the time.
Being on duty every time you’re in the public area is a lot of pressure. You find yourself constantly wondering who is in earshot, monitoring your behavior, editing your character. I don’t believe that’s healthy, nor is working EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Literally, every day is a Monday. And what’s more is that being around coworkers 24/7, through your ups and downs, highs and lows, is super difficult. You can’t just take a sick day and ride it out at home on your couch. Nope. You don your phony smile and fake it till you make it (assuming you do eventually). You would have thought being around hundreds of people each day would improve my social skills, when in fact, they feel damaged. Unfortunate truth about most cruise ship dynamics: you won’t see 95% of these people again. And more often than not, they don’t want to hear about your problems. They just want to tell you about theirs.
Looked over for promotion.
I worked a ton of contracts in one department. I wanted a function change. I wanted a promotion. I wanted more responsibility, more impact, more regard. I would have thought 7 years was enough to prove myself capable and worthy of that but it’s like I was invisible.