How to Handle Unethical Behavior in the Workplace

When a colleague does something unethical, how do you respond?

April 1, 2010

"I confront the person and ask him or her to refrain from breaking the rules in our Code of Ethics. If the response is 'everybody does it,' I say: 'We may be seeing you soon in a hearing.'" − Jim Bauknight, Bauknight Realty, Houston

"I always speak to my broker about it, and our brokerage usually notifies the parties involved of our opinion in writing. This helps our brokerage manage its risks." −William Ashworth, GRI, Oregon Realty Co., Portland, Ore.

"It’s more appropriate for the broker to handle it than me. When it comes from the broker, the communication carries more weight and seems to change the problem behavior, if only for a short time." −Ginger Saavedra, Wynn Realty Group, Las Vegas

"First, call the agent out on the issue, then investigate the allegations and see what the best remedy is. If the allegations are true, a reprimand is best. If problems persist, it’s appropriate to file a formal complaint with the local association of REALTORS®." −Bill Hoyle, Sun Realty, Naples, Fla.

"Many issues can be addressed simply by discussing the problem with the agent and the agent’s manager. If the issue is the result of an honest mistake or involves something I can’t prove, I don’t do anything. When the acts are intentional, reckless, or damaging, it should go to an independent body for hearing and judgment. I’ve personally filed two ethics complaints." −Aaron Dickinson, Edina Realty Inc., Plymouth, Minn.

"I speak to the person directly. If it’s a serious violation, I go to that person’s broker as well. If they respond that they’ve done nothing wrong, or if they don’t change their actions, I file an ethics complaint with the local association." −Anne Rubin, CRS®, GRI, Century 21 Advantage Gold, Philadelphia

"I encourage newbies, if they believe there’s been an ethical violation, to go to their broker. Because of their lack of confidence, their tendency is to keep quiet; they assume the other person knows more than they do. But they’re recently steeped in best practices from their pre-licensure classes, so they’re often right." −Reba Saxon, GREEN, GRI, Teacher Realty, Austin, Texas