Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

Can an accountability be a negative on-going expectation?

Conceptual question for the community. In other words, can an Accountability form an expectation that a Role will NOT engage in an on-going activity?  For example, on the Career Coaching role with a Purpose of "Right Bus, Right Seat", is an Accountability of "Not Advising Partners to exit circles or the company" a valid Accountability. As the Secretary of a sub-circle I was asked to determine if this was an NVGO proposal and the proposer argued that allowing this kind of advice damaged the capacity of the circle to energize it's purpose. This proposal was not adopted as we ran out of time and I suggested in closing that it might have been better as a policy to resolve the tension. But the conceptual question remains since I could not pinpoint a constitutional source preventing an Accountability from being a negative on-going expectation. Questions, comments and quemments appreciated.

4 Replies
Jean-Michel Gode

Hi Brian,

Interesting question!

From my perspective, an accountability is an on going action, not a restriction.
To constraint an authority, just set a policy or a domain.

What was the tension behind?

Hope that helps.


I second Jean-Michel! 

A negative accountability does nothing to limit anyone's power. It would still be totally legitimate for this role to say "in expression of my role's purpose, I am advising this person to leave the company".

Putting in place these kind of negative accountabilities I think would decrease my trust in the Holacracy system I was part of. "We say that anyone can do anything (AKA be a Ferrari), apart from things were domains and policies limit action - but yet here are the old implicit expectations which don't really have power but are creeping out to say 'yeah, you can do this, but it won't go well if you do".

Chris Cowan

I think you'd want a domain to restrict who defines the official process for exiting the company, but other than that...leave out the whole notion of trying to restrict "advising." It sounds like a horrible idea to restrict advice; where does it stop? Why not restrict sharing opinions or information that might lead someone to consider leaving? 

There are very good reasons why someone might need to leave a circle or the company, restricting talking about it doesn't make those situations less likely, it just means you're less likely to know about them and make conscious decisions about them. 


Brian Winfrey, correct me if I'm wrong, but the way I read the original post was that it sounds like the expectation is that in that role, the Career Coach would not advise anyone leave the circle or the company, even if the purpose of the Career Coach were to provide advice to a partner seeking it regarding a current role. It seems that without that restriction, even if the Career Coach sees it as harmful to the circle, if the individual filling that role comes to him and says, I'm considering vacating my current role in Circle X, which I was hired for and contribute greatly to, and take on a different role in Circle Y or leave the company altogether, then the Career Coach would not be obliged to provide assistance in to the partner.

That said, this may be better expressed as a policy whereas the career coach would not encourage a partner to vacate an important role or circle, but provide advice around options, how to perform a smooth transition, et cetera. I could see how even internally, recruiting someone to another role in another circle may benefit that circle and partner (grass is always greener on the other side), but could greatly damage the primary circle by vacating the role in which he was originally hired or primarily functions in.