If the formatting of this email is incorrect, please scroll up and select, "View this email in a browser."
Saving a Life at Risk Sometimes
Takes a Risk on the Part of Leadership
- Carolyn V. Coarsey, Ph.D.
Co-workers, friends, and peers may recognize when someone is at risk and help avoid a tragic situation before it escalates. Training on how to recognize signs of a potential problem is one of the advantages of the Gatekeeper program as taught by the QPR Institute.
-Paul Quinnett, Ph.D.
Founder & CEO, QPR Institute
“I took a chance for both of us, but it was for the best. I wish there had been a leader for us to talk to who could actually help us. But I did not want “M” to lose his job if I followed ship
protocol. We all knew that if a team member does not act correctly, the help they get includes
being sent home and offered doctor visits that may result in never being able to come back
to work. Unwell crew members are at high risk for losing their jobs.”
-A former manager in a leadership role
onboard vessels of a major cruise line
The long summer with a new ship start-up in a European season had been very challenging for all the crew onboard. The cruises were long, and everyone was working very hard. The hard work of the crew paid off and the season was very successful—yet everyone was tired and overworked by the end of it.
When our ship’s management took vacation, we had an acting ship where those in the next immediate positions stepped up to cover jobs temporarily vacated by management. We had some great people that were definitely up for the challenge, and none of them said “no” to the opportunity. I was one of them. Also, the Assistant Guest Services Manager took over the Guest Services Managers position, the Staff Captain took over as Captain, the Assistant Food and Beverage Director took over the director's job, and even the Assistant Cruise Director was now acting as Cruise Director for a short while.
Acting in a manager’s role is such a great opportunity and usually leads to promotion in many cases. We were all so happy and honored to step up, but everyone knew it was not going to be easy. The challenging workload increased with the feeling of responsibility and fear of failure. When you are trusted to run a department, you want to be perfect. My friend, that was acting as Food and Beverage Operations Director was one of the best I have known to take that role. He is a great team player and dedicated to making the operation a success. "M" spent endless hours helping the guests, as well as planning with the team on how to best manage the level of service we were offering.
"When I asked if he was okay, he did not answer "yes" or "no". He just said that he was tired and not fit to take a manager's position."
Every one of us knew we were in over our heads, but we all wanted to give our teams our best and make the operation a success. We worked as a very close team and communicated often, with great support from our shoreside leadership. We never shared how tired or overworked we all felt. I soon noticed that “M," the Food and Beverage Operations Director was looking tired and was quieter then usual. I didn’t see him smile and felt that he was not himself. When I asked if he was okay, he did not answer "yes" or "no." He just said he was tired and not fit to take over a manager’s position. He was perfect in the role, and he continued to give his best, as we all did. Days went by, but “M” was still not himself. His assistant and their team noticed it too, but no one said anything about it. I could tell something was wrong and spent more time with “M” during the day trying to talk about it. He did not want to speak. It all took a terrible turn when "M" did not show up for work after a quick lunch break. I called his room. He answered and said he did not want to get out of bed, although he was feeling fine. He told me to leave him alone, as that was what he wanted. He sounded very strange, so I called him back, and he did not answer. I called several times, but he did not pick up again.
I knew he was not well by this point but did not know what to do. I went to his door and knocked. He did not answer. I became anxious. He eventually answered but did not open the door and again asked me to leave him alone. He said that he did not want anything from anyone at this point. I told him through the door that I was apprehensive about him and that I just wanted to see him and make sure he was okay.
He did not answer. I was now terrified, and hoping he was not in there hurting himself. I ran and got the plastic key to open his door. When I tried the key, it did not open the door. "M" knew his team held a master key in the office. He had double-locked his door where the master key could not open it. Knowing that made me worry even more. I wondered why he would do that? The only way to get in was with a metal master key that opened everything. Thankfully, the position I was covering allowed me access to the metal master, so I ran and grabbed it. But wait!
"Protocol and procedures say that if you think something is wrong with someone and they may be trying to hurt themselves, you should call medical and security and we should not enter the room."
Protocol and procedures say that if you think something is wrong with someone and they may be trying to hurt themselves, you should call security and medical and we should not enter the room alone. I did not want to call anyone and expose “M." Outside his door, I was anxious. I wondered what I would find behind the door? If he had hurt himself, I would lose my job for not following protocol, and then what? All these thoughts went through my head in a few short minutes.
"I gave him the time to rest but checked on him often."
My gut told me to go in and see him; I did not want to call anyone. I was shaking when I opened the door, hoping he was fine. He was in bed and covered his head with the blanket when I entered and said, “No,” woefully. I sat down beside him and told him I was apprehensive, and I was not going to leave his side. I told him not to worry about work. He said he did not care anymore and just wanted to be alone. I told him he was tired and needed a good rest. I told him that I was going to take care of his work, and he should sleep and rest. He did not want to look at me at all; he mumbled from under the blanket.
I called his assistant and told him “M” was not feeling well and that he should please take over his duties. I later brought food to his room. Every time I left him, I felt anxious and hoped he would not do something to harm himself. Every time I got back to the room; I could see he was in bed trying to sleep. I gave him the time to rest but checked on him often. It took a day or so for him to get out of bed, and he then slowly started feeling better. He accepted my being around him and helping, we did not speak about work, we only talked about positive things, and we made lots of progress. I spent lots of time with “M," and he felt comfortable that no one else knew that something was up with him. When "M" felt he was ready, he went back into the office. Soon, all the management that was on vacation returned, and we all went back to our normal positions. While it had all been very challenging, we all did very well. It was hard for everyone. “M” was back to being himself and did not talk about what had happened.
"M" continued to do a great job and eventually became a manager--a great one."
“M” continued to do a great job and eventually became a manager--a great one. He stayed in that position for years after this episode. He led teams and worked on challenging ships and did a great job. He also found love onboard and could not be happier. All this would not have happened if security and the nurse knocked on his door that day. He was not well that day, and that would have been so obvious. He was beyond tired and was not himself. He needed a friend to understand that—and some time off.
"M's" story ended on a positive note by complete chance: I had access to that metal master key and was able to open that door. If I did not have that option, I would have had to call someone and expose his situation. There is no doubt in my mind that this would have made matters worse. I too was in a very tough spot. I broke the rules and chose to help him that way, I took a huge risk and never talked about it either. I was not the type of manager to break the rules, I took safety and security seriously, and I had anxiety over this for a long time. This could have ended badly, and if my gut feeling was wrong, "M" could have ended up hurting himself even if I tried helping. I took a chance for both of us, but it was for the best. I wish there were someone we could have talked to that could have helped. But I did not want "M" to lose his job if I followed ship protocol. We all knew that if a team member does not act correctly, the help they get includes being sent home and offered doctor visits that may result in never being able to come back to work. Unwell crew members are at high risk for losing their jobs. So I am glad it worked out this way. He is a great person and deserves everything that happened after this bad moment ended.
QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer, and is a research-based intervention that anyone can learn. If you are interested in learning more about how to become a Gatekeeper and becoming part of a more extensive network that is dedicated to suicide prevention, please contact us. The Foundation works with the QPR Institute to customize this successful intervention for cruise lines, aviation companies, human resources professionals, and other workplace groups. To learn more about the training classes offered by the Family Assistance Foundation, and for information about upcoming Gatekeeper classes and how you can become a trainer within your workplace go to fafonline.org. You can also contact Cheri Johnson at email@example.com.
Upcoming Gatekeeper Trainings
Atlanta Gatekeeper Training
September 27, 2019
Atlanta Train-the-Trainer Training
September 27, 2019
London Gatekeeper Training
December 6, 2019
London Train-the-Trainer Training
December 6, 2019
QPR Gatekeeper and Train-the-Trainer Training will be offered at additional locations when additional dates for Foundation Member-Partner Meetings are announced for 2019.