Can a landlubber say something about life at sea?

How is your job motivation? How do you feel when you are at work, do you believe that you have the right skills and the ability to use those skills to reach your work goals? Do you adjust well to changes or do you usually expect the worst?

Scandi Caledonia 04

We asked more than 1000 sailors about their job motivation, not as directly as I asked you above, but by using a questionnaire measuring Psychological Capital (which really is just a more fancy word for positive job motivation). Just like economical capital, your psychological capital is not a set value, it can vary over time, and grow if you invest in it. We asked the sailors to score themselves on four different kinds of job motivation:

• Belief in your skills and what you can do with them.
• Abilty to use those skills to find different ways to reach your goals.
• Positive expectations, believing that you can make a difference.
• Adjusting well to change, “getting back on the horse” after difficulties.

We also asked half of the sailors questions about their job satisfaction, if they enjoy and are enthusiastic about their work.

So why are we interested in this?

Sailors being motivated and satisfied with their work are all good, but we are interested in the results, and more specific effects on the safety onboard.We believe that a sailor confident in himself and his skills, is more likely to speak up if he sees something threatening the safety onboard, and that it is an advantage if he has the ability to seek alternative solutions to unsafe work behavior. It could be a disadvantage for a sailor to be passive; believing that there is nothing he can do to influence his surroundings, but on the other hand overconfidence or unrealistic optimism could also be risky if it leads to disregarding warning signs. We think that it is a strength if a sailor is able to feel at ease outside his normal comfort zone and not get overly stressed by changes.

So what did the sailors say? The sailors with a high degree of positive job motivation and satisfaction viewed the safety onboard as better than the sailors with a low degree of job motivation and satisfaction (We found some cultural differences when it comes to the relationship between these factors, for more about this see the full article). We also found that officers had a more positive view of the safety onboard than the non-officers had, maybe because they feel they have more influence over decisions regarding safety?
Even if this is only one of many important factors, we believe that strengthening sailors’ job motivation may have a positive influence on safety onboard and could have its place in ship management training.

So, can a landlubber say something about life at sea? My answer is yes, if she asks the sailors.

(PS. Half of the sailors got a questionnaire measuring social desirability - the tendency for people to present a favorable image of themselves on questionnaires. This questionnaire includes many and “strange” questions asking things like have you ever stolen a library book, told a lie, or disagreed with your parents. The point of this questionnaire is to find the ones consequently answering extremely positive about themselves, because we believe that no one is that flawless, and that the “flawless” people would probably answer overly positive on the other questionnaires as well. So if Superman exists and participated in the study, his answers were excluded).

Kjersti Bergheim is a PhD Candidate at the University of Bergen, who has been engaged with NHC during her PhD studies.Together with her colleagues Morten Birkeland Nielsen, Kathryn Mearns and Jarle Eid, she has published the article "The relationship between psychological capital, job satisfaction, and safety perceptions in the maritime industry" in Safety Science. 


13. Jan. 2015