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Eliminating Workplace Culture Pollution and the new Pickle Challenge for Charity

Please download the Program Description for The Pickle Challenge at and send it to your CEO with a note encouraging your organization to be a part of it.

When Dr. C. Everett Koop announced the goal of a smoke-free society in 1986, many people wondered what he’d been smoking. Back then people smoked everywhere, including in hospitals. The tobacco industry spent billions of dollars on advertising and lobbying to promote “smoker’s rights,” a “right” that millions of smokers were belligerent in exercising.

Today, of course, the impossible dream of 1986 is such a firmly established reality that we no longer need No Smoking signs to enforce it; anyone lighting a cigarette in a public place will instantly be scolded by everyone else within breathing distance, including other smokers.

Unfortunately, today many organizations, including hospitals, are facing another epidemic: an epidemic of toxic emotional negativity. This epidemic is reflected in journal articles, books, and headlines about bullying, incivility, and disrespectful behavior, which in turn contribute to the growing prevalence of disengagement, compassion fatigue, burnout, dropout and, tragically, suicide.

Today we need a movement to eradicate toxic emotional negativity just as desperately as we needed a movement to a eradicate tobacco smoke pollution 30 years ago.

As founder of a nonprofit organization that was dedicated to ending tobacco industry campaigns to addict children, back in 1986 I had a front row seat in the fight for a smoke-free society. I learned that to achieve any significant cultural change, you must create a movement that engages a critical mass of people at a personal level.

That’s why we created The Pickle Challenge for Charity – a fun and lighthearted way to help people confront chronic complaining, bullying, gossiping, and other emotionally damaging behaviors by turning them into charitable contributions. The 42 hospitals and health systems that participated in Version 1.0 have raised more than $80,000 for the charities of their choice, while also having a positive and sustained impact on their workplace cultures.

We have incorporated everything we’ve learned into an enhanced version of The Pickle Challenge, which will launch on September 3, 2019.

Our goal is to have 100 hospitals implement this challenge, using our validated VCI-17 Culture Assessment Survey to measure before-and-after results. We will share what we learn with participating hospitals in individually-tailored consulting reports, and with the rest of the world via scholarly publications and other media.

Let’s face it: what we’re doing now isn’t working. After years – after decades! – of talking about bullying, incivility, “nurses eat their young” and the like, toxic emotional negativity is still a real problem in hospitals.

If 100 hospitals and other organizations embrace The Pickle Challenge for Charity and document a positive impact, it will be the impetus for a nationwide movement to eradicate toxic emotional negativity.

That seems impossible, doesn’t it? So did Dr. Koop’s dream of a smoke-free society back in 1986.

Please join us in this important effort. Download The Pickle Challenge 2.0 program description at then contact us at 319-624-3889 with any questions and to enlist your team in this important initiative. Thank you!

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