Change is hard. Even little tiny changes. However, if this change references something you have been doing anyway, then it is fundamentally a nonissue. Why then, pray tell, would one tiny little proposed change, specifically only involving the omission of four words and the introduction of one word, cause a veritable uproar within the real estate community?

Frankly, anytime the National Association of Realtors (NAR) makes any sort of proposal for change, there is an immediate “up in arms” reaction by a certain number of Realtors, who seem to be waiting in the rafters for just such an opportunity. “Yes ... someone at NAR opened their mouth ... this is what we’ve been training for, people. Arm yourselves and attack.” Seriously, people; are there not enough causes to join at this juncture? For Holy Hannah’s sake ... it’s an election year. We have an indubitable circus on our hands. Please tell me there is something else to focus our energies on.

Apparently, the NAR Professional Standards Committee recently met to consider recommendations to amend Policy Statement 29 of the NAR Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual. Let’s review the original policy and then what it would say if this is approved.

Titled “Applicability of the Code of Ethics to non-real-estate-related activities,” the code currently reads: “While Realtors are encouraged to follow the principles of the Code of Ethics in all of their activities, a Realtor shall be subject to disciplinary action under the Code of Ethics only with respect to real estate-related activities and transactions involving the Realtor.”

The recommendation, if approved, would change it to read: “A Realtor shall be subject to disciplinary action under the Code of Ethics with respect to all of their activities.”

Specifically, this Policy Statement refers to discriminatory speech and conduct. Since we really should be behaving all the time, why is there an uproar? Can a person really live so inauthentically in the role of business that there are two different sets of rules (i.e., one for professional life and one for personal life)? Should it really be OK to spout out racial slurs and hate speech among “friends” and then carefully dance around the topic at work?

I guess I’m just not that good at being able to switch back and forth. For many, good, upstanding, ethical professionals, there is really only one hat. I imagine switching back and forth is not only exhausting but garish as well. One is bound to put on the wrong hat with the wrong outfit at some point and the two will inexcusably clash. How can one be ethical in business but not ethical personally? One cannot exist without the other.

I’m sincerely hoping that the naysayers are not necessarily fighting the policy change, but rather arguing the supposed inconsistency between policy change and first amendment rights. If this were the case, there would be no argument; meaning, there really is no inconsistency.

In the first amendment, Congress agrees to make no law prohibiting free speech. For the record, this isn’t a law made by Congress. It is a proposal made by NAR. This is a private organization, not a government entity. In fact, the NAR is somewhat “exclusive.” Not everyone is a member. If you are a member and you don’t want to play by the rules, you don’t have to be a member. It is just like so many other things. No one is forcing anyone to follow any rules here. However, if the rules are not followed, there are consequences. I’m slipping into mom mode now.

Here’s the thing, one bad apple can spoil the bunch. I don’t want to exist in a barrel of bad apples. It stinks in there, it’s uncomfortable and mushy, and it is soon spoiled and thrown away. Again, most Realtors are really good apples. I hope we are the one’s not launching complaints over this upgrade of the Code. It is in everyone’s best interest. We shouldn’t have to mandate ethical change; we should be living it in every part of what we do. So, let’s put on our hat (singular, not plural) and get to work or play.

Jen Fischer is an associate broker and Realtor. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or jen@jen-fischer.com

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