telemarketersMembers of Congress, lobbyists, and car salesmen edged out telemarketers as having the worst reputations for honesty and ethical standards, according to a Gallup poll taken at the end of 2011. Other professions that ranked low on the trustworthiness scale include business executives, stock brokers and real estate agents.

What makes these professions so maligned by the average American? Not all people in these industries are cheaters, liars or flat-out crooks. But while there are bad seeds in every industry, those seeds really bloom in these professions. And it all boils down to bad incentives -- incentives riddled with conflicts of interest that allow (encourage, even) people to rationalize bad, unethical behavior.

Here's a look at how misaligned incentives affect the behavior of professionals in five fields Americans distrust.

Motley Fool contributor M. Joy Hayes, Ph.D., is the Principal at ethics consulting firm Courageous Ethics. She owns shares of AT&T. Follow JoyofEthics on Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Lockheed Martin and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of and creating a bull call spread position in Apple.

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what about telemarketer? how can you forget that

April 24 2012 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have realtor #1 , used car salesman # 2, Lawyers #3 ...I've had four houses the last thirty (30) years and even in better times (the economy ) Realtors take the cake..They'll look you right in the eye and lie to you 24/7 . I've been told that IT'S a law that I have to counter offer a extremely " low ball " offer ..This was 1998 ...Been told that I had to have at least 25. % equity in my house before I could sell it -- in 1991...And also was told that I had to pay ALL the points at closing -- I was the seller -- in 1985 ...Guess I got a bad one - Realtor that is ...

April 24 2012 at 10:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JohnC's comment
Charles E. Matchett


April 24 2012 at 6:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a licensed real estate salesperson in the state of New York, I am saddened to read this article. There have been many independent studies provided to our industry that indicate that as high as 90% of surveyed buyers and sellers of real estate, nationally, would use or recommend the agent that they used. The main complaint seems to be that they agents do not stay in touch after the sale and there are thousands of real estate agents in Canada and the United States who pay professional business coaches from $500-1500 per month, each and every month, to help them learn ways to provide the very best of skills and service to their clients before, during and after the sale. Being one of those Realtors, means that I thoroughly believe that a real estate professional is here to serve his or her community and put the best interests of our clients higher than our own financial gain. Sometimes the hardest part is that it is difficult for buyers and sellers to understand that their own personal perception of the value of their asset that they are selling or hoping to buy is often inaccurate because of their emotional attachment and then when a Realtor gives an honest price assessment, that honesty is construed as an attempt to "make our job easier". In reality, by pricing a home CORRECTLY on the first day, my client will most often get the best price in the shortest amount of time. Much like telling the buyer that the extremely lowball offer they make might offend the seller to the point where he or she may dig in their heels and not be as flexible as they might have been had a more reasonable offer be tendered from the very beginning. I could go on forever, but it's really a shame that so much of the GOOD advice we offer to our customers is so often misconstrued as being self-serving and ends up actually costing the doubter money in the long run. Yes, there ARE bad apples, as in all professions. So, my suggestion is to pick your Realtor by asking people you respect for a referral. Take time to get to know a Realtor before you sign an agreement and you'll find out their level of commitment. Those of us who work by referral depend on our individual reputations for our paychecks and our ability to live with our conscience.

April 20 2012 at 5:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Nancy's comment

Yeah, we got all that. But, the bottom line is "buyer beware"

April 25 2012 at 9:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thing so called journalist rank right up there. They lie more than salesmen and lawyers/ polititians combined.

April 20 2012 at 4:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That is the most clueless account of Real Estate Brokers I have ever heard. For this account to take place, the consumers would need to have experienced a lobotomy; there would be no judicial system, trade associations, sanctions, loan qualifications, sales comparables, licensing, etc. With the internet, the public is more informed than ever in the real estate process. You can't really know what different professions really do while accumulating college credits. Exactly, how much do Ethics Consultants add to the the Gross National Product?

April 20 2012 at 2:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Anybody get the professions? I couldn't tell. Why not just list them without the cutsey remarks?

April 20 2012 at 1:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Questions: Where did all these "despicable" politicians come from? Did they drop from the sky? Did they materialize out of thin air? No! They came from the public. They came from the country's churches, colleges, (maybe home-schooled), from communities that are all around. People voted for them; and if you talk to people, you find out pretty quickly that it's not the politicians that suck around here; it's us. Garbage in, garbage out.

A majority of the people are dumb and they keep electing these yahoos that stand against their interests. Here's a contradiction: "Working class Republican." How can a person of working class be a Republican? Beats the heck out of me. There has been a systematic dumbing down of the country as a whole and we are continuously slipping internationally in such important categories as education, health, life expectancy, infant mortality, environment, and yes, freedom as well.

We are number one in the world one dubious category: we are the fattest nation on earth.

So much for that. I do have to finish my nachos and pies.

April 19 2012 at 9:42 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to shahbaz233's comment

You speak like an ignorant libitard. Government does NOTHING to help and every thing they try to "help" with , they screw up. Your fat is obviously in your head. Quatar is the fattest nation on earth. Try looking up something yourself unstead of getting your propaganda from Special Ed at MSNBC or HuffPo. They are racists that play the weakminded.
Socalism has been tried and failed everywhere and you idiots here want to try it more?? Trying the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of stupid.

April 20 2012 at 4:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Agree big time...You ever notice that whenever you point out "TRUTHS" about FLAWS in our society/country,that there's a bunch of FLAG-WAVERS that call you a SOCIALIST.I guess they skipped out of Government/History in school somehow,on their way to SCREWING AMERICA..Oh well,yes,a good solid post,and yes,we are going BACKWARD as a country.

April 20 2012 at 5:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The problem with politicians is that a large percentage of them were lawyers first!!!

April 19 2012 at 6:21 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply


April 19 2012 at 5:42 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to saksr1of3's comment

The best lying lawyers become politicians, the worse become salesmen. The ones too stupid to get into law school become journalists

April 20 2012 at 4:07 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Space Cowboy

Come on. Any survey that doesn't have a lawyer listed in the top 5 is flawed. If you haven't been screwed over by a lawyer or attempted screw-over; your time is coming.

April 19 2012 at 5:23 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply