You can create a safer, more positive culture in your office, even if you’re not the one who’s actually in charge, writes agent and advocate Andi Blackwell.
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It’s an unfortunate fact of modern life that many people no longer feel safe, even in their own neighborhoods and workplaces. The events and discussions of the past few months reflect a growing anxiety and an ongoing lack of trust in the people and institutions we used to feel were on our side. Bad behavior can happen anywhere — at a conference, in the office and at the highest levels of the industry.
For almost 100 years, it’s been established that safety is a basic human need, second only to food, water and shelter. In a world with increasingly stressful headlines and market changes, here are three ways you can create a culture of safety in your office, even if you’re not in charge.
1. Explore and practice self-regulation
Self-regulation is an important component of emotional intelligence. It allows you to be more aware of yourself and others, and can help you to optimize your behavior in reaching your long-term goals. Most importantly, self-regulation allows you to manage your thoughts, feelings, and actions, even when faced with a difficult situation, or traumatic event.
Two common strategies for self-regulation are mindfulness and reframing. In this context, mindfulness is not a meditation, but rather an awareness of being present in the moment without judgment.
Imagine hearing an agent on the phone with frustration in their voice. When you’re being present without judgment, you don’t jump to an assumption that they are frustrated with you or the deal. You understand that people are complex beings with much going on. It may have nothing to do with you.
Reframing is a strategy that allows you to reinterpret the situation you’re in to change your emotional response. In every situation we walk into, we bring the sum of all of our experiences. As real estate agents we brag about our experience as a good thing, but it can also carry with it assumptions, frustrations and emotional history.
While real estate remains a field of heightened stress, using self-regulation strategies means your emotional state won’t be at the whim of every phone call. You can also learn how to use these new strategies to assist others when they are in a dysregulated state. By being a more regulated and present individual, you can contribute to the general peace of an office.
2. Advocate for clear safety policies both inside and outside of the office
Is it safe for an agent to meet someone alone at a vacant house? In what circumstances may it be? If your office does not have established best practices for safety, advocate for that to change. Safety policies are not a guarantee, but having these policies in place shows that the agents’ lives are as important as their livelihoods. It also provides an opportunity for an ongoing conversation that will continue to be needed.
Best practices for safety aren’t just needed outside the office. Eighty-one percent of women and 43 percent of men report experiencing some sort of sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime. Seventy-one percent of Black Americans have experienced racial discrimination or mistreatment. Nearly half of LGBT workers will have experienced workplace harassment in their life.
So what do you do to maintain safety within the office? All Realtors are subject to Code of Ethics 10-5 regarding hate speech, but many agents say enforcement is still needed. Most agents are independent contractors that don’t benefit from Title VII federal protections, but no one would argue that a real estate office should be a place where discrimination is accepted.
That said, each office or agency should seek legal advice to craft an office policy regarding discrimination and how to enforce it with integrity to secure the trust of their agents. Independent contractors should also remember they are always able to seek an office whose policies conform to their values.
3. Encourage different business perspectives in the office
Real estate is an industry where there is no one way to be successful. Inman’s articles are filled with agents who have created successful businesses via a wide variety of marketing techniques. Yet there are agents who believe you have to do a specific activity “to be successful.”
We now know that consistency is the key to a successful business. It is not the activity you pick, it’s doing it consistently, often enough and long enough, to reap the rewards. That is why it is extremely beneficial to bring different business perspectives into your office and embrace the many paths to success.
One agent may not feel safe door knocking but can flourish on social media. Another agent may not be comfortable with the lack of privacy on social media but is very successful with open houses. Allowing and encouraging a variety of different methods provides different avenues for agents to build their businesses while also meeting their needs of safety.
Agents in offices can request information and speakers on different marketing practices. If that’s not something their office provides, another way would be to create a mastermind with like-minded agents.
These three points are just a few ways you can contribute to a culture of safety. Of course, we are all aware that there are no guarantees when it comes to safety. Each agent still deserves to build a life and a business where they can feel safe. As a basic need, it is frankly essential for the individual, and therefore the office, to thrive.
Andi Blackwell partners with her husband as real estate agents at eXp Realty (and they still love each other). She’s a third-generation agent and Certified Trauma-Informed Coach who focuses on teaching classes and finding ways to improve agent and client outcomes. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.