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Opinion Editorials

The Death of Civility. Was It Ever Alive in the First Place?

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Family Arguning Over Real EstateMaybe it’s the circles I run in.

Can You Scream A Little Louder?

Lately, I’ve been reading blogs in the RE.net both here on Agent Genius and elsewhere where both blog posts and comments seem to be getting shriller and shriller.  A post may start out innocently enough.  The subject might be Raising the Bar, Duel Agency or maybe even a bone to pick.  Sometimes the author is reasoned and even insightful. A lot of times, not so much.

Then, put on the Kevlar®.  The comments start coming in and, one wonders, if the commenters even re-read their stuff before hitting the Submit button. All kinds of accusations and assertions are made.  Not the “Kind Sir, I believe you may be mistaken about your point of view.” type.  Nah. We start calling each other unethical, uneducated, uncaring, criminal conspirators or — my favorite — morons.

Conversation at a New Level

All of this takes the conversation to a new level.  Unfortunately, it’s not a higher level. It reminds me of the word games some teenagers play about your Mama (“You’re Mama is so ugly the mirror cracks when she puts on her makeup.”). Sometimes these start out in the spirit of fun but, many times, they rapidly disintegrate into arguments and bad will where none existed before.

It also reminds me of many real life transactions where one Realtor starts screaming at the other when one aspect of a transaction doesn’t go exactly according to plan.  Sadly, this seems all too frequent.

I know I’m engaging in a lot of wishful thinking.  It’s a fantasy of mine that the level of discussion in the real estate blogosphere can be both interesting and civil.  Who knows?  Maybe some day.

In the meantime, I’ll share I line I heard on Prairie Home Companion last night (we liberals love our NPR):

“You must’ve been conceived at home.  That’s where most accidents happen.”

Take that!

“Loves sunrise walks on the beach, quaint B & Bs, former Barbie® boyfriend..." Ken is a sole practitioner and Realtor Extraordinaire in the beautiful MD Suburbs of DC. When he's not spouting off on Agent Genius he holds court from his home office in Glenn Dale, MD or the office for RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Fulton, MD...and always on the MD Suburbs of DC Blog

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Joe Sheehan

    February 21, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Thanks, Ken.

    You stated it perfectly. I have a very difficult time agreeing with someone’s opinion when I am so offended by the way it’s presented. Thanks for taking the time to say this.

  2. BawldGuy

    February 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Hey Ken — You’ve recognized a decades long trend which has sadly become the norm for much of the country. I’ve always thought the origin of this trend was the first time Cassius Clay, later Muhammad Ali, began openly and loudly disparaging his latest upcoming opponent. This was then taken another step downward as he’d then transition into a loud and shameful monologue about how good he was, how superior he was, and the like.

    What changed was when the principle we were all taught as kids, bragging is rude, shameful, and unbecoming, was then modified. Free license was granted by changing it to- If you can do it, it ain’t braggin’. Of course, that’s the most insidious form of lie. If a dominating athlete says he can do something at will against another athlete, it’s bragging period — especially if he can do it. If he can’t do it, he’s simply a loud-mouthed fool.

    Once Ali’s behavior was deemed acceptable by a large segment of the population, it spread like a virus. The result is what you observed in your post.

    I prefer class, dignity, and acting as if you’ve been there before. I’ve been personally attacked online many times, as most of us have. I prefer one of two responses. I either point to the ‘scoreboard’ if appropriate, or ignore them altogether. My preference has been the latter. Arguing with haughty arrogance fueled by ignorance and inexperience is akin to debating whether it’s gonna rain a week from next Tuesday. It also tends to make one appear as foolish as the arrogantly ignorant fop who’s running their mouth, insulting anyone who dares disagree.

    Speaking for myself, I much prefer the class and dignity of a Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, or Larry Bird to the ‘look at me’ generation of clowns we now have to endure. Though I’ve used sports figures as examples here, I think you’ve amply shown this virus has reached and infected most segments of our culture.

    Sad.

    • Lani Rosales

      February 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm

      Ken, Jeff and I know each other personally and chat on the phone frequently and I think we agree because we are cut from similar cloth (which is probably why Benn and I are friends with him in the first place).

      My dad said when we were children, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. And if you do, you might get smacked in the back of the head.” Of course he meant by him or an opponent.

      I had an email conversation just yesterday with a friend on AG and he noted that it’s interesting that some commenters use the very tactics to attack the writer that they are condemning the writer for. My response was that it’s not the real estate blogging space, it’s everywhere- people are stretched thin and times are hard and desperation is seeping through peoples’ writing voices in comments across the board.

      This tone will change as the economy recovers.

  3. MIssy Caulk

    February 21, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Ken, I have that little fantasy too. But like Lani it is not just online.

  4. Gwen Banta

    February 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Ken, if people took just 10 seconds to remember that every word they say or write is a reflection of the person whom they truly are, they might care more about the monikers they attach to people. In my opinion, the road to civility has been closed for repairs for a very long time…

  5. Janie Coffey

    February 23, 2010 at 1:17 am

    there is certainly a certain contingent who feel empowered, superior, emboldened to opine loudly and negatively about any and all topics. I often wonder if they realize their current and potential clients can read those comments as well, but I guess when they put them out there, they either feel they are fully justified or simply don’t care. Sad but true but glad I am not the only one saddened by it.

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Opinion Editorials

Shady salary transparency is running rampant: What to look out for

(EDITORIAL) Employees currently have the upper hand in the market. Employers, you must be upfront about salary and approach it correctly.

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Man holding money in the dark representing false salary transparency.

It’s the wild wild west out there when it comes to job applications. Job descriptions often misrepresent remote work opportunities. Applicants have a difficult time telling job scams from real jobs. Job applicants get ghosted by employers, even after a long application process. Following the Great Resignation, many employers are scrambling for workers. Employees have the upper hand in the hiring process, and they’re no longer settling for interviews with employers that aren’t transparent, especially about salary.

Don’t be this employer

User ninetytwoturtles shared a post on Reddit in r/recruitinghell in which the employer listed the salary as $0 to $1,000,000 per year. Go through many listings on most job boards and you’ll find the same kind of tactics – no salary listed or too large of a wide range. In some places, it’s required to post salary information. In 2021, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act went into effect in Colorado. Colorado employers must list salary and benefits to give new hires more information about fair pay. Listing a broad salary range skirts the issue. It’s unfair to applicants, and in today’s climate, employers are going to get called out on it. Your brand will take a hit.

Don’t obfuscate wage information

Every employer likes to think that their employees work because they enjoy the job, but let’s face it, money is the biggest motivator. During the interview process, many a job has been lost over salary negotiations. Bringing up wages too early in the application process can be bad for a job applicant. On the other hand, avoiding the question can lead to disappointment when a job is offered, not to mention wasted time. In the past, employers held all the cards. Currently, it’s a worker’s market. If you want productive, quality workers, your business needs to be honest and transparent about wages.

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Opinion Editorials

3 reasons to motivate yourself to declutter your workspace (and mind)

(EDITORIAL) Making time to declutter saves time and money – all while reducing stress. Need a little boost to start? We all need motivation sometimes.

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Clean work desk representing the need to declutter.

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few years. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to identify and minimize ‘invisible’ work in your organization

(EDITORIAL) Often meaningless, invisible tasks get passed down to interns and women. These go without appreciation or promotion. How can we change that?

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Women in a meeting around table, inclusion as a part of stopping gender discrimination representing invisible work.

Invisible work, non-promotable tasks, and “volunteer opportunities” (more often volun-told), are an unfortunate reality in the workforce. There are three things every employer should do in relation to these tasks: minimize them, acknowledge them, and distribute them equitably.

Unfortunately, the reality is pretty far from this ideal. Some estimates state up to 75% or more of these time-sucking, minimally career beneficial activities are typically foisted on women in the workplace and are a leading driver behind burnout in female employees. The sinister thing about this is most people are completely blind to these factors; it’s referred to as invisible work for a reason.

Research from Harvard Business Review* found that 44% more requests are presented to women as compared to men for “non-promotable” or volunteer tasks at work. Non-promotable tasks are activities such as planning holiday events, coordinating workplace social activities, and other ‘office housework’ style activities that benefit the office but typically don’t provide career returns on the time invested. The work of the ‘office mom’ often goes unacknowledged or, if she’s lucky, maybe garners some brief lip service. Don’t be that boss that gives someone a 50hr workload task for a 2-second dose of “oh yeah thanks for doing a bajillion hours of work on this thing I will never acknowledge again and won’t help your career.”  Yes, that’s a thing. Don’t do it. If you do it, don’t be surprised when you have more vacancies than staff. You brought that on yourself.

There is a lot of top-tier talent out there in the market right now. To be competitive, consider implementing some culture renovations so you can have a more equitable, and therefore more attractive, work culture to retain your top talent.

What we want to do:

  1. Identify and minimize invisible work in your organization
  2. Acknowledge the work that can’t be avoided. Get rid of the blind part.
  3. Distribute the work equitably.

Here is a simple example:

Step 1: Set up a way for staff to anonymously bring things to your attention. Perhaps a comment box. Encourage staff to bring unsung heroes in the office to your attention. Things they wish their peers or they themselves received acknowledgment for.

Step 2: Read them and actually take them seriously. Block out some time on your calendar and give it your full attention.

For the sake of demonstration, let’s say someone leaves a note about how Caroline always tidies up the breakroom at the end of the day and cleans the coffee pot with supplies Caroline brings from home. Now that we have identified a task, we are going to acknowledge it, minimize it, and consider the distribution of labor.

Step 3: Thank Caroline at the team meeting for scrubbing yesterday’s burnt coffee out of the bottom of the pot every day. Don’t gloss over it. Make the acknowledgment mean something. Buy her some chips out of the vending machine or something. The smallest gestures can have the biggest impact when coupled with actual change.

Step 4: Remind your staff to clean up after themselves. Caroline isn’t their mom. If you have to, enforce it.

Step 5: Put it in the office budget to provide adequate cleaning supplies for the break room and review your custodial needs. This isn’t part of Caroline’s job description and she could be putting that energy towards something else. Find the why of the situation and address it.

You might be rolling your eyes at me by now, but the toll of this unpaid invisible work has real costs.  According to the 2021 Women in the Workplace Report* the ladies are carrying the team, but getting little to none of the credit. Burnout is real and ringing in at an all-time high across every sector of the economy. To be short, women are sick and tired of getting the raw end of the deal, and after 2 years of pandemic life bringing it into ultra-sharp focus, are doing something about it. In the report, 40% of ladies were considering jumping ship. Data indicates that a lot of them not only manned the lifeboats but landed more lucrative positions than they left. Now is the time to score and then retain top talent. However, it is up to you to make sure you are offering an environment worth working in.

*Note: the studies cited here do not differentiate non-cis-identifying persons. It is usually worse for individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.

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