Christine O’Rourke is Head of Conduct Standards at RICS supporting surveyors by producing standards and guidance on professional conduct including the Rules of Conduct. She has worked in complaint handling roles in a number of organisations including RICS, other professional bodies, and the Pensions Ombudsman.

RICS Regulation is Not a Council of Perfection

As part of the standards team at RICS, Christine acknowledges that receiving a complaint can be scary for surveyors. She reassures surveyors that RICS seeks to help them resolve their situation with helpful advice and guidance. 

“I know people are fearful of RICS regulation,” Christine says. “We do understand that having a complaint made against you is a horrible thing. We obviously have a job to do when we're considering complaints. It’s really important that we're fair and even-handed, and we treat the complainant and the member or firm equally, presuming they both wanted to do their best. Very few people that I've ever dealt with have gone wrong because they've been distracted with other things. They just made a bad call.”

“Some of that is about confidence,” she continues. “It's one of the things that I often say to people, ‘Have you talked to anyone else about this? Who does the work that you do?’ But, of course, we all come under pressure in our work from clients or bosses or other people.” 

“Sometimes mistakes happen,” Christine says. “It's really important for public confidence in the profession that regulation takes some action. It does have to be an upholding of standards. But regulation is not starting out wanting to take action against people. On the whole, regulation is looking to try to deal with the reality of the situation, rather than being any kind of counsel of perfection.”

New RICS Rules and Regulations 

Christine breaks down the new document that brings together RICS rules and regulations for members and firms.

“What we've tried to do in the new document is bring those concepts together,” Christine explains. “The rules were always based to some extent on ethical principles. We now have a set of rules and conduct that applies to all members and firms. There are five rules, and they are, in fact, quite similar to the existing global ethical principles.”

“There won't be big surprises,” she adds. “They focus on what's most important for the public, for stakeholders, for clients. It’s about having people who are competent to do the work, provide good service and treat people with respect. Also, encouraging diversity and inclusion, taking responsibility for your work, acting in the public interest, and preventing harm, it’s all included there. There are also some obligations of membership and being a regulated firm, which are about your relationship with RICS.”

Maintaining Professional Competence in Surveying

Christine recognises that surveyors may eventually stretch their goals and scope of work in surveying. She advises surveyors who progress in their careers to get the mentoring and support they need to maintain professional competence.

“We didn't want the rules to stop people from being able to move into new areas of work,” Christine says. “You'll have a basic level of knowledge and skill, but it may be that you are aware that you're moving into something which is a stretch for you. That's where the resources and training come in.” 

“We are very aware of the fact that nobody's career stays the same,” she adds. “People do move into new areas, but it is about thinking about the three elements, and whether you can put together the right package of knowledge, skills, and resources to be able to do the work competently.”

RICS’ Focus on Respect, Diversity, and Inclusion

Christine gives her take on what it really means to respect the diversity of people involved in the business of surveying. She also offers advice on how to handle frustration and disappointment in public interactions that occur online. 

“It's thinking about your client base,” Christine says. “Do you present your information in a way which allows for the fact that people are different? If you have a client whose first language isn't English, or he comes from a different kind of cultural background, your methods of communication might be very different. Just being aware of that and thinking about, ‘Am I communicating in a way which helps this person understand? Am I trying to understand what they mean when they communicate with me rather than reacting to the tone?’ It is about what's proportionate and what's reasonable. And it's just about opening your mind to the fact that people are different. There are a lot of small things that people can do that help everybody be able to participate fully and get the best services.”

“Nobody wants to stifle debate,” she continues. “There are lots of things that we disagree with. There are things that have gone wrong that people want to call out and quite rightly so. But it's about thinking that the person on the other end is a fellow human being who has feelings exactly like you do. It's not fair on anybody for that to be done in a bullying way or using unprofessional language, or being personal about people. That's not appropriate,” Christine concludes.