In this column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical Miami real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic. This month: He talks through assumptions associated with annual internal awards and how to handle issues that arise when previous top producers don’t make the cut.

In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical Miami real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic 

A successful Miami agent had a mediocre previous year and came up just short of her office’s benchmark for a production-based annual award. Should her broker give her the benefit of the doubt and “level” her up?

Agent perspective

To be honest, I have never really taken my company’s annual sales awards all that seriously.

I find my motivation from many different areas: The need to support my family, the enjoyment of closing a sale, the satisfaction of helping someone find or sell their home, and the competitive spirit that comes with a tough negotiation.

I’ve been one of my company’s top producers for so long that I suppose I have always taken for granted the honor that comes with receiving one of my company’s top production awards. Winning that award each year has always been nice, but not something that inspired me.

Although I knew I did not have one of my usual banner years last year, I assumed I was close enough to still be eligible for one of the usual top-tier awards. However, when the list of those awardees was announced, I was not on it.

I could totally understand and accept that, but what really annoyed me was the bit of information that came later. When I asked my broker how close I came to reaching the award threshold, he explained that the total was around $1,000.

One thousand dollars. Seriously? We deal with many millions of dollars in transactions through any given year, and to be denied this honor over such a piddling amount seems ludicrous. (Not to mention the many dollars I have helped generate for this company.)

What makes this even more galling is a disputed sale from late last year (based on a procuring cause issue) that was resolved in January of this year, which would (should!) have put me way over the threshold. Between that and my many years of top production, shouldn’t my broker have given me the benefit of the doubt in this case?

Broker perspective

Agents are excellent convincers of others, and can often convince themselves of anything as well. True story: I once had an agent walk onto the stage at our annual ceremony for an award she 100 percent did not earn, simply because she “believed” she deserved it.

However, I believe you only earn what you actually achieve — period. If someone beats you in a race, you did not win. If you quit one block from the finish line, you did not finish.

In a world that hands out participation awards, I can understand the thinking of this agent to some extent, but when it comes to “leveling up” for an earned award, we cannot make exceptions.

We have been rock-solid consistent about the rules and structure of our agent awards since Day 1, and we are transparent with agents about the way production is measured. (It must be closed sales and commissions actually received by the agent within the calendar year. No exceptions.)

Let’s say I did cut a corner and gave this agent the “benefit of the doubt,” as she puts it: Does this help motivate her in any way?

I would argue that receiving an undeserved accolade would produce the opposite result. And what about her colleagues? I certainly didn’t cut any corners for them in previous years, ensuring that her previous award levels only included the elite top producers.

I don’t mind this agent feeling the sting of coming up a bit short. In fact, I want her to be annoyed about it. I bet she’ll cross that threshold easily this year.

How to resolve

The key to having a successful office awards program is to be consistent and transparent, and it would appear the broker has done so in this case.

Although the agent might have a somewhat legitimate concern about the technicality of her disputed/procuring cause case, the broker is in the right if the rules concerning disputed cases have been consistent across the board.

What the broker might consider additionally offering are some subjective awards. These would recognize agents and staffers who achieve in areas beyond production.

For example, awards recognizing qualities such as: team spirit, enthusiasm, kindness and professionalism, exceptional hustle and work ethic, career production and leadership, and/or a “comeback” award for agents who have conquered major life challenges.

Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty in South Miami and Kendall, where he leads the activities of more than 165 agents. He is also a working agent who consistently sells more than 100 homes a year. In 2018, he was named “Managing Broker of the Year” by Miami Agent Magazine’s “Agents’ Choice” Awards. NOTE: Anthony is not an attorney and does not give legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney regarding matters discussed in this column.

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