Integrity Bullies

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This post needs a preface. Without one, it serves as an excuse. Board members, management, those with fiduciary, ethical, and legal obligations, obligations you are well aware of and signed up for, I did not write this for you. This is not your excuse.

Come to think of it, if you need to sell 10 more copies of your book before you’re invited to do your next TED Talk or, I don’t know, go solve feminism in The Galapagos Islands, this isn’t for you either.

When I was being interviewed(1) by a defense lawyer hired to “investigate” a sexual harassment claim at my workplace, he kept asking me why I still worked there.(2) And he wasn’t really asking – he used the phrase “bad management” about a thousand times and implied there was something wrong with me for putting up with it. As I told Mr. Privileged Beverly Hills Lawyer, it’s a bit more complicated than simply choosing to leave and that’s what makes workplace retaliation and abuse so insidious, so traumatic.

I wrote this post after the umpteenth colleague expressed extreme guilt for continuing to work for a boss who behaves badly. I wrote this post after yet another colleague had to face a, “Holy sh*t, why don’t you LEAVE!?” conversation. I wrote this post for every colleague who has expressed to me just how sorry they are that they can’t do something about illegal and unethical behavior in “the movement.” Listen, I think a lot of us can do something, but I know a lot of us can’t, are terrified, or just don’t know what to do. I think many of us face real barriers – barriers that the victimizers use against us, for their gain, to perpetuate and protect their bad behavior. I wrote this for you, the other victims.


I believe in integrity with all my heart. I also don’t think it’s always possible or advisable. As a result of my experiences with said belief, as all good former “don’t label me!” teenagers do, I have created a label: integrity bully. An integrity bully is a person who relentlessly pressures folks to act with integrity and who bullies(3) those who they think are not doing so.

When I wrote that I don’t hate all individuals who are police and military personnel, I made people SO MAD.(4) So much so that I hesitate(5) to remind people about it here. But seriously, all I was saying is that you can hate a system, think it is flawed beyond belief, and not despise people who are, say, working in that system. How dare I say that, right?

Unless, maybe, you’re one of those people working in a flawed system or workplace. Or, you know, trying to keep a job even though you know some not-so-great things are happening. Or, say, have a relationship with someone who says things that make you look bad. Or in any way find yourself in a situation in which your ethics and someone else’s ethics don’t match up.

But whatever, dude, get outta there! End that relationship. Quit that job. HAVE INTEGRITY. Because it’s super easy, not threatening or dangerous at all, and everyone should do it!

And that, my friends, is the fundamental approach of an integrity bully, except usually more bully-like.(6)

Integrity is fabulous, fantastic – I want to cuddle up in bed with integrity and spoon it like there’s no tomorrow. But there is a tomorrow and to assume people have the same ability that you do to live magically as they wish is naive. To pressure people to do so and shame them when you think they have failed is harmful with a side of evil.

I want a world where everyone has the choice to do whatever the hell they want.(7) And my problem with integrity bullies is that they seem to think we’re there. Well, we’re not. There are so many barriers to acting with integrity that I’m not even sure they’d fit into all the COSTCO stores in the U.S.(8) A lot of people have to keep their jobs. A lot of people have to maintain certain relationships. If you can’t understand and respect that, then you, dear sir, are an integrity bully.

Let’s all act with integrity when we can and how we can. For some people, that’s instilling ethics into their children, for others it’s risking their jobs, their financial stability, and even their lives for a cause. I have profound respect for each and every person who acts, to the best of their ability, with integrity. But you will never, I hope, find me pressuring someone to do so, because I do not know each person’s situation. I do not know the risks anyone but I am able to take. We are all experts on our own lives and you, Mr. Integrity Bully, are not.

  1. I mean, it was a full-on trauma-inducing interrogation, but who cares?
  2. I left that day.
  3. Treats like crap.
  4. I was going to say the anarchists in my life went wild, but that insults both nature and animals.
  5. Am pouring sweat, overheating, and perhaps panicking about my impending murder.
  6. Add more crap-like treatment.
  7. Except breeding or buying puppies. No one is allowed to breed or buy puppies.
  8. Anarchists, can I get my cred. back? I dissed the patriarcho-capitalist, earth-destroying, rabbit-hole inducing, getting-lost-in assuring, mega corporation!

One thought on “Integrity Bullies

  1. I like this post by you very much. One thought though….would it be out of line to suggest you add to your statement: “I want a world where everyone has the choice to do whatever the hell they want.” an extra elaboration of something like “as long as what they’re doing isn’t harming other living beings”. Would that be acceptable?

    Thanks for writing this. I suspect that expecting and/or demanding perfection (including perfect consistency) from anyone is rather absurd…and most likely harmful.

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