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Don't Ask Me to Step Outside the Lines

Real Estate Agent #201210229

How many times has a client or vendor asked you to step outside the lines?  Provide them under the table with a resource or service, discount your own services or ask for extra considerations that simply weren't "kosher?"

I've written about this for years.  I never understood when I was young how or why I had this resistance, reluctance that I came to refer to as I developed my work in ethics over the past thirty years as "The Inner Bottom Line"® that just didn't allow me to not say no or to cross certain boundaries under any circumstance. As I see it, call it your gut, your instinct, your conscience, it's what makes you say no when someone tries to compromise your ethics or values by asking you to behave badly, disrespectfully or dishonestly.

 Step Outside the Line


I was reminded of all this when recently, I hired a photographer to shoot a new listing. She was talented and wonderful to work with and when we were finishing up, I thanked her warmly for doing such a good job. She said she appreciated my response and then confided that not everyone she met on location everyone treated her with the same respect that I had; that she loved working for her boss, but that on a number of occasions, she'd been asked to provide her services on the side, rather than going through the company she worked for. And as if that wasn't enough, to do all of this at a discount. It was evident she was not only deeply uncomfortable at being asked to participate in or enable underhanded or unscrupulous behavior but also personally hurt and not quite sure why. 

I suggested that situations like this involve, among other things, the basic ethical value of respect. Whenever we are asked to ignore or cross our basic boundaries and provide our know-how or talent for less or "on the side;" whenever we're asked to compromise our professional services by discounting our commission or convince one of our valued service providers to go along and "do a favor," we're being disrespected. And trivialized. Or, if we do it to others, we're disrespecting them.  It's that simple. And that complicated. And that's not only not acceptable, it's also insulting.  And not smart. Or ethical or wise. So next time, there's only one thing to say to a request like that: "Don't ask me to step outside the lines.  Because when I do, I compromise myself and I deserve much more than that."


Comments (35)

William Feela
Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No.

Sadly, I think I am getting more of this from my newer vendors.  Makes me want to dump most of them.

Jul 24, 2015 09:25 AM
1~Judi Barrett
Integrity Real Estate Services 116 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745 - Idabel, OK
BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK

Rarely do I get asked to do something that is considered unethical.  Maybe with a name of Integrity Real Estate Services, it backs them off.  

Jul 24, 2015 10:48 AM
Mike Cooper, Broker VA,WV
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro

Olive, it's a sad reality of the business world. I have had a lot of offered bribes for #1 position on an REO, for a project we were offering or a reduced price on a home I was about to list. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Get in line and play by the rules.

Jul 24, 2015 01:01 PM
John Novak
Keller Williams Realty The Marketplace - Las Vegas, NV
Henderson, Las Vegas and Summerlin Real Estate

I have a one-strike rule with situations like these. I'll ask them in a disapproving tone if they really want me to go there, and if they can't see how wrong their request is, they're out!

Jul 24, 2015 01:46 PM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

I have been fortunate not to have run into this in a very long time.

Jul 24, 2015 01:56 PM
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH@properties - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

I've only had this happen once, and I'm pretty sure the vendor was clueless about the legal implictions of what he was suggesting. 

Jul 24, 2015 01:59 PM
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Burlington, MA
Metro Boston Homes For Sale

Olive Gallagher, Soldera Properties, Inc. very well said -- can't agree more with...

"whenever we're asked to compromise our professional services by discounting our commission or convince one of our valued service providers to go along and "do a favor," we're being disrespected. "

Jul 24, 2015 03:29 PM
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

I am glad I have not been in such a situation. It is important not to do anything unethical .

Jul 24, 2015 08:28 PM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Don't bend or snap in two your values and beliefs. But your approach to the marketing, how you do your dog and pony in any providing a service, selling a product. Reinvent and be creative but ethical. Passion has to be in there as the major ingredient with an equal helping of work ethic.

Jul 24, 2015 08:44 PM
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

I don't recall being asked to compromise my ethics at work ever. 

Jul 24, 2015 10:59 PM
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
HomeSmart - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Olive - There has only been one situation where I was asked to do something unethical by a client. It ended really bad when I told him that I could not do it.

However, it seems that more and more people in all industries don't seem to care about values or their conscience, and will do anything to make themselves more money.

Jul 25, 2015 03:33 AM
Fred Griffin Florida Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

Hi, Olive.

   I agree with your basic premise on being ethical. 

  However, I respectfully disagree that a Client asking a Broker to discount his usual fee is "unethical". 

     I recently bought a ring for my wife.  The first jewelry store wanted $1200.  I told them I'd pay $1000.  They said, "No".  

      So I went to another store, and found a similar ring for $1400.  I offered them $1000, they said they  would take $1200.  Sold! 

    Did that make them "unethical" in the world of Jewelers because they knocked down their price? 

    Of course not.  It is called "competition", and getting the sale. 

    The same principle applies in Real Estate.  A savvy Seller who is trying to save $$$ by asking for a discount is not suggesting that a Broker violate his "ethics".


Jul 25, 2015 12:31 PM
Michael J. Perry
KW Elite - Lancaster, PA
Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist

The way I view it is - if they would compromise their integrity so easily , how long will it be until they are throwing you under the bus ??!!

Jul 25, 2015 11:39 PM
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Broker
Elizabeth Anne Weintraub, Broker - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

Praful hit it on the nose. Generally, when I am asked to deviate from my norm, it also involves a level of disrespect. The two tend to go hand-in-hand, which makes it even easier to say NO. I don't deviate. And I stay out of trouble. Some people will argue you with you until the cows come home that there is nothing unethical about what they are suggesting and you know what -- there generally is something wrong because their mouths are still moving.

Jul 26, 2015 04:50 AM
John Mosier
Realty ONE Group Mountain Desert - Prescott, AZ
Prescott's Patriot Agent 928 533-8142

Olive Gallagher, Soldera Properties, Inc. -- If one has established a good reputation, offers to "step across the line" will not happen. I like your messages. I am now following you.

Oct 28, 2015 04:46 PM