How Are You Doing? Americans Now Rank At An All-Time Happiness Low

Your team members and customers are struggling, Rachael Hite writes. Here is what wise brokers need to know about the state of happiness and how it impacts all of us.

April is Teams Month here at Inman. Adding nuance on top of our weekly Teams Beat email newsletter, we’ll serve up top insights from the best team leaders across the country as we dig deeper into what it takes to build a team, scale it, and even leave one.

Americans are feeling less happy, according to the Gallup World Happiness poll, published March 20. Caught among issues of inflation, lack of housing, the rising costs of higher education and child care, and challenges with finding and affording access to quality health care, the latest poll reveals that Americans now rank No. 23 overall on the “happiness” scale worldwide, falling sharply out of the top 20 since last year’s survey.

The real estate industry is under extreme stress and change as a result of the commission lawsuits and the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) settlement — and it’s no secret that agents are struggling.

In this article, we will take a deep dive into overall consumer sentiment and pinpoint ways that agents can use strategy to improve their work-life balance and, hopefully, boost a little more happiness back into their daily routine.

Who is the most unhappy? Why is this important?

The global study provides insights and data about what is happening worldwide and explains why happiness is so important to our overall well-being.

The results are startling. For the first time in 12 years, America has fallen out of the top 20 happiest countries, with those 30 or younger reporting a glum outlook about the economy and political discourse.

This year’s study was unique in that it focused on the level of happiness for all generations and age-specific activities and revealed new stats showing that younger generations struggle to feel happiness more than their older counterparts.

Older Americans over 60 reported that they felt more happy than their younger counterparts. Why? Mainly for financial and social reasons. They reported stronger friendships and hobbies, and many of them felt more confident about their finances.

  • Americans over 70 hold 30 percent of the country’s wealth, according to Bloomberg.
  • Nearly 80 percent of adults 65+ own their homes, according to Census data
  • Research also shows that, for some reason, psychological well-being follows a “U” shape, according to Axios. Meaning that your mood and happiness improve with age.

The bottom line is recognizing that the stress that continues to flood our daily lives is impacting our ability to realize happiness and find purpose, and this is not a long-term situation that we want to stay in.

Elmo started it

Sesame Street’s Elmo nonchalantly asked in January how everyone was doing on social media, and parents and fans alike shared answers that went viral. A flood of malcontent comments and reactions on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, signaled that, no, Elmo, things are not OK for many adults.

The reactions (more than 20.6K replies at last count) made national news headlines, spawned late-night talk show jokes and generated social media fodder. The answers ranged from satiric to heartbreaking. They served as an important reminder that it’s essential to check on your loved ones.

At the same time, real estate is potentially seeing upheaval, and leadership should take this cue to check in with their teams. Mental health issues, while now more commonly spoken about, still carry a stigma that many folks struggle to overcome.

Perhaps that is where the National Association of Realtors (NAR) blundered the most in responding to real estate agents. Leadership showed an overall lack of care about how the pending changes stand to impact millions of people’s livelihoods, much less how it will impact their mental health.

@abc7la The one and only Elmo of “Sesame Street” asked people how they were doing “X” and Elmo got a flood of responses, many of them from people who are struggling. #news #abc7la #abc7eyewitness #elmo #x #sesamestreet #elmosworld #mentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters ♬ original sound – ABC7LA

Much like with Elmo’s question, agents flooded social media with responses after the news of NAR’s settlement, and they were angry, shocked and ready to fight back. Agents are upset and have every right to be, especially after several news media outlets have run with the most sensational part of the story, lacking crucial nuance, and did not fully explain what might happen.

@silas_ottah I’m checking in with you guys. How are you feeling? #CapCut #foryourpage #fyp #trending #tweet #funny #sesamestreet #traumatok #news #elmo ♬ original sound – Silas

If you’re happy and you know it

Leadership needs to step up and recognize that all the bootstrap talks on the planet are not going to help their team find success; it’s going to take real change, better education, more advocacy and, above all else, high-quality customer service training to retain and build lasting relationships with consumers.

Toxic positivity is rampant in business coaching and recruiting circles, and it’s not the messaging the industry needs to hear right now. Brokers and team leaders will have to give team members the tools they’ll need to succeed with intention.

Your team doesn’t need a pizza party or to be told they are not cold calling or door knocking enough at your next sales meeting to fix the problem.

An effective strategy to help your team boost happiness in challenging times could look like several things, including:

  • Better commission splits to show you are committed to promoting their career and moving them forward
  • Additional administrative assistance (frees up more time for prospecting)
  • Transaction management assistance (frees up more time for prospecting)
  • Custom evaluations to match their personality with the selling techniques that support their personal strengths. Selling is not a one-size-fits-all path.
  • An open door, just knowing that you are available to listen and troubleshoot through issues, is priceless
  • Tools that support better communication and more robust lead capture
  • Financial counseling referrals
  • Retirement planning referrals
  • Being flexible if they decide to go part-time or on referral status and not creating a shame-based culture around it

Your team needs honest guidance and solutions to help them stay in the game. The reality is that the following year (and probably a little beyond) holds a great deal of change, and to evolve into something new, the old system has to burn down.


Strong leadership will define 2024

Good leadership recognizes the challenges and creates pathways for their teams to move forward in the least restricted way possible. Wise leadership remembers where it can cut excess and bring real value to agents — less swag and more results.

Popular social media chat groups have even seasoned agents talking about sluggish business, looking for alternatives, guidance and many questions that strong leadership should answer for them.

Outstanding leadership knows that if you want your team to be happy, you will have to aggressively make it your mission to become more people-focused than you have ever been. Your focus will have to shift from sales to ensuring your crew’s top-notch well-being so they can go out and find success — no clapping required.

Rachael Hite is a former agent, a business development specialist, fair housing advocate, copy editor and is currently perfecting her long game selling homes in a retirement community in Northern Virginia. You can connect with her about life, marketing and business on Instagram.

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