Examples of Empathy in the Workplace: Show You Care

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Trillion Dollar Coach" by Bill Campbell. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you looking for examples of empathy in the workplace? How can you show you care without being unprofessional?

In Trillion Dollar Coach, empathy is critical to being a good manager and colleague. Examples of empathy in the workplace impacted the culture at companies including Google, Intuit, and Twitter.

Read on for some real-life examples of empathy in the workplace.

Real-Life Examples of Empathy in the Workplace

Below are some of the principles Bill Campbell shared with those that he coached. With each principle are example of empathy in the workplace from Campbell’s own experiences or from his clients’ experiences.

Care About People’s Lives Outside of Work

Example: When Ruth Porat was hired as Google’s CFO, she had to commute to Silicon Valley from New York. Campbell constantly asked her how her husband was handling the arrangement. He wanted to make sure that not just his CFO was happy, but also her husband. 

Another classic Campbell story occurred when Brad Smith was hired at Intuit in 2003. He attended a meet-and-greet to get to know the other company executives. Campbell introduced himself by giving Smith a giant bear hug and saying words along the lines of “Welcome to the team, you SOB.” Smith had just been introduced to Campbell’s signature style, which fell far outside the norms of corporate culture: warm hugs and friendly profanity.  

The Google executives who authored Trillion Dollar Coach admit they aren’t huggers like Campbell—they’re more inclined to shake hands. And they don’t go as deep into employees’ family lives as Campbell did. But they have adopted many of Campbell’s habits, like learning people’s names, looking at an employee’s family photos and learning about their spouses and children, and asking questions about their lives outside of work. 

These examples of empathy in the workplace all show how people were able to demonstrate that they cared about their staff and colleagues beyond the office relationship.

Do Favors for Others

Example: When Dick Costolo became CEO of Twitter, Campbell instructed him to collaborate with the company’s three founders, to work alongside them and not against them. Campbell gently reminded Costolo that although today Costolo was the CEO and they were the founders, at some future time he would be the ex-CEO and they would still be the founders. This is one of the examples of empathy in the workplace that is especially fitting of Silicon Valley.

Connect People to Each Other

Example: Campbell formed a Super Bowl group, a bunch of friends who would travel together to attend the Super Bowl each year, wherever it was held. Occasionally someone would have to cancel at the last minute and he would wind up with extra tickets. He would always give them away to strangers. Campbell’s Super Bowl gatherings mattered so much to him that when he was dying, he created an endowment to keep the trips going. He did the same with other trips he and his friends took each year—a golf trip to Cabo San Lucas, a fishing trip to Montana. He was famous for picking up the tab for both large and small events. He even invested his money in an aging sports bar in Palo Alto, which became a popular Friday afternoon hangout for anybody who walked in. Campbell often paid the bar bill for friends and strangers alike. This is one of the examples of empathy in the workplace that show how things can resonate outside of work.

Support People Even When They Leave 

Example: In 2017, Eric Schmidt announced he was stepping down from the board of Google. Campbell was no longer alive to be his coach and mentor, and his teammates at Google feared that he would struggle with the transition to a new life outside of Google (after 19 years with the company—first as CEO, later as chairman of the board, and still later as board member). So they rallied around him to help create a plan for the next stage in his career. Schmidt didn’t make his final exit until 2020, but his team made sure he didn’t walk that road alone. This is one of the lasting examples of empathy in the workplace.

Examples of Empathy in the Workplace: Show You Care

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Bill Campbell's "Trillion Dollar Coach" at Shortform.

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  • How Bill Campbell went from football coach to tech coach
  • The 4 pillars of Campbell's leadership philosophy
  • How the King Arthur Round Table model for making decisions empowers employees

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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