Dealing With Bullying at Work

Years ago I was deckhand on tug with four crew, captain, mate and two deckhands. The mate harnessed me the whole way down the coast and back up. I didn’t have much tug experience at that point so I kept my mouth shut and just did my job.

After the trip was over we were all throwing up gear in the pickup truck for a ride and mate starting flipping me shit again. Not on the tug any longer, not crew. I told him in plain language I wasn’t going to put up with any shit from him.

The mate shut up pretty quick but the captain was standing right there grinning about the whole thing. It was a small crew, he knew what was going on. I guess I just figured the captain sanctioned the mate’s actions. He could have easily told the mate to lay off at any time.

It’s the captain’s job to maintain order on the vessel, if they don’t want to or can’t do it the crew will take it into their own hands and the outcome might not be what the captain wants.


There was a captain at K-Sea up in New Jersey named Bill many years back who had a penchant for some pretty serious harassment of his deckhands. The company refused to fire him, but twice he got the everloving shit kicked out of him when ashore by irate deckhands… unfortunately that didn’t fix the problem, though I bet it felt great to unleash the frustration.

I worked for him once. I fantasized myself about tossing him down the wheelhouse steps.

I once worked for a small 2 ship company where on the other ship the 1st was known to be pretty rough on the crew. One day an Oiler waited for him around a corner with a 12" crescent wrench. The 1st didn’t make the trip, the Oiler needless to say was fired.

Ah…the good old days.:grin: The oiler gave a lesson with one wrench that no amount of formal education could duplicate. Given the chance I’d hire the oiler.

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Did that fix the 1st?

One can hope. But stupid is hard to fix

Some years later he was sailing Chief on a SeaLand ship on their Puerto Rican run. One day he got zapped working on a 440vac reefer box. In talking to guys aboard at the time two things came up in conversation. First, many wondered if the electrician had anything to do with it. Secondly, there was a brief debate on reviving him (they did). So to answer your question, he probably didn’t learn as much as he should have.

He retired and has since passed away.

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Yeah I’m not surprised. The captain at K-Sea got roughed up pretty bad constantly by people but he kept at it. Either he had a deathwish or he really needed to be medicated.

Most bullies are cowards at heart. Radovan may simply be hiding behind his body builders physique and loud mouth. Bullies are often uncanny observers and judges of character including the landscape around them. They calculate just how far they can push things and stay within those parameters. But when someone just out of the blue explodes in their face and gets nastier than they ever figured that they could the bully often implodes in shock.

Of the people at work who need to grow a pair the worst are the foreman and front office people. Semi Annual Employee Evaluations
from the front office would let Radovan know he is out of order and has till the next evaluation to clean up his act or he’s gone. Video cameras can be a great aid in this.

Ahmed is the one who needs to be moved away from Radovan to another area. Put the next person in the Radovan’s pecking order
around him. Then then the next above him from time to time. If Radovan relishes this then the fear will galvanize these people against Radovan. I can’t imagine Radovan being that valuable to the company in his trade.

But as it is nothing is going to change. Those like Ahmed tend to bring out the aggressiveness in those who would be bullies. This is
where managements understanding of organization building is more than important. So that this condition doesn’t begin to exist nor will it be tolerated.

Sounds like he read The Death Ship

So the Yorikke again had taught me something new, by which I mean: It works wonders for a
laborer to have a hammer or a lump of coal at hand to use at the right time in the proper way. A
working-man that is not respected has only himself to blame.

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A Latvian bullying an Tunisian.
Soulds like possible racism, plain and simple.

Right…because in the absence of any facts indicating that, or evidence proving that, or an investigation showing that as the case, it’s always good to just assume that.

That’s as plane as day.


I am merely offering an observation based on the OP’s comment that the Latvian does seem to really hate the Tunisian.

Having been on the receiving end of racist abuse I have seen how it is completely irrational but does seem to prompt very emotional behaviour. Of course I may be wrong and do indeed hope so but there is a lot of anti muslim sentiment building in Europe on account of the migrant problems associated with mixing liberal European culture with a conservative religious one.

That was going to be my last word on the subject, but a few things have come up that should be addressed.

I beg to differ. I have no professional responsibility to maintain discipline or ensure the overall success of the business. I have only the vaguest of legal responsibilities, certainly non-actionable so long as Ahmed refuses to press the issue. What I’m left with is my social responsibility, which I consider a private matter between myself and my conscience. I will do what I consider best for Ahmed, and y’all have done much to convince me that it is to make the immediate problem go away.

I’m fairly certain that it’s not. Radovan never uses racial slurs when cursing Ahmed. To have an Easterner refrain from such language under any circumstances is pretty rare, and says much for Radovan’s relative level of enlightenment, his mean streak notwithstanding.

I love that passage! Most of all because Gerard learns a very different lesson from what most readers would expect.

My assertion that a decisive application of disproportionate violence can permanently resolve these situations, is borne from personal experience. I won’t bore you with the gory details, but rest assured that there is sometimes a “happy” ending.

Now for some good news. Things took a dramatic turn the other day, with Radovan overstepping the line so far that management has taken steps. At the tail end of this I caught Ahmed alone in the car for a few hours, and got him to admit to the problem. He still refuses to lodge a complaint, but at least we’re talking. This is no longer a static situation.

I put this to the gCaptain forum because you time and again shown an uncommon insight into people management. You didn’t necessarily tell me what I wanted to hear, but that would have been useless advice anyway, so thank you.

That’s it, really.

Ahmed’s going to have a long road ahead of him, I used to get picked on for just about anything untill I learned you gotta pick back. Simple really, if someone shoots some mean words, shoot right back. If someone gets physical, get physical back. Its not even about winning the fight, merely pushing back (and once in a while getting them good and hard) is just enough to make them think twice. I see too many dudes getting shat on more and more because they do absolutely nothing back.

Tell this to lil ahmed; if you really can’t win or get them good on the physical department, start fuckin’ with the guy. Shoot some more mean words, put some shit in his morning coffee (when the rest of the crew can see it), get dirty or do whatever to let the guy know:
dont fuck with me

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For a classic study in bullying at work… Watch the Devil Wears Prada.

The problem with keeping Radovan, is that he will continue his pattern of abuse with the next guy that comes down the gangplank unless that individual happens to be another guy like Radovan. It would almost be worth it to hire some animal to put Radovan in his place once and for all. As an employee of the company, you have the responsibility of Supervising the workmen and stopping abusive behavior. If you fail to do so, you let the company in for Major litigation as well as punitive fines from watchdog agencies. Time to have a sit-down off Campus with Senior management. This is getting above your pay grade.