The Roebke Rule (Real-Time Accountability)

Over the years, I’ve been adamant about requiring accountability as soon as expedient. Don’t try to discipline me for something that happened a month ago – or last week. If it bothers you as a friend, co-worker or family member, bring it up.

Just as you don’t hit your dog with a newspaper for peeing on the carpet last week, I can’t stand it when someone is being held accountable for things that should have been addressed in the past. One’s memory of details fades quickly, especially in regards to trivial matters. If an issue isn’t addresses as important, it gets filed under “trivial” without consideration.

The “Roebke Rule” is the official name I added to this sentiment.

You must bring up the alleged deviation, crime or injustice as soon as convenient. If it is important, you will use the myriad methods of discussion at your disposal to bring it up. You cannot wait until you are on the hot seat to shift the blame to someone else. If you didn’t bring it up at the time it happened, you can’t bring it up later.

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve wanted to shake someone’s eyeballs out of their head for violating the Roebke Rule. When someone gets called on the carpet to be held accountable, one of the tried-and-true responses is to point the finger at someone else as a distraction.

It is such a pleasure to repeat this frequently and then observe the next person on the hot seat as he/she realizes that he/she can’t get by with trying to dredge up the past.

Further, when an alleged miscreant claims that he can’t trust those to whom he might have reported another person’s misdeeds to, I always invoke a list of alternate people with which they could have spoken. If they insist that no one was trustworthy, I point out that perhaps either they have an unhealthy cynicism toward their superiors OR they might not be in the right place.

The Roebke Rule name originates from a supervisor I knew. As you can guess, his downfall was due to total disregard for the rule named on his behalf. He was held accountable for things that should have been addressed before, by people who already knew it was going on.

Sidenote: This is another reason why anonymous surveys or critiques can be such a huge waste…


P.S. Please note that issues such as sexual harassment can be much more complex than meets the eye. As with all generalizations, please avoid stretching this rule to encompass all possible scenarios.