Wanna Be a “Suit”? CEOs Say, Lose the Suit and Pack Your Lunch

(Huy Lam/Getty Images)

“Be proactive” and “Synergize” are among the habits in Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the business bible that has sold more than 15 million copies. “Brownbag it” isn’t.

But it could be, according to a  survey of 561 senior executives across the U.S. titled “Emulating the Big Cheese,” released this week by CareerBuilder. The survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive, adds a few more habits — habits that are both more specific and more counter-intuitive — for corporate ladder climbers to consider.

  • Don’t wear suits. “Business casual,” a phrase that makes many fashion mavens shudder, was the look preferred by 63% of respondents. Even “jeans or shorts” — at 18% — beat suits, which came in last, at 14%.
  • If you’re female, wear black; if you’re male, don’t — wear navy blue. Fifty-one percent of women respondents said they typically wore black, and only 18% of men. Forty-one percent of men said they typically wore navy. If you’re wearing pink or red to work, perhaps as part of a campaign to “stand out,” reconsider. Less than one percent of respondents said they wore pink or red.
  • Don’t drink at company events or “happy hours.” Don’t even go to them. Almost one-third of execs said they didn’t drink at company social gatherings, and one-fifth said they avoided them altogether. If you do partake, stick to wine and beer, the choice of almost half of drinking respondents. Only 3% said they did shots, an illustration of the degree of difficulty of going head-to-head on Cuervo with Mitch from Purchasing and not ending up being Mitch from Purchasing.
  • Pack your lunch. Forty-one percent of senior execs said they brownbagged their lunch, a curious clash between pay grade and home economy. (Maybe they spent the money they saved on their SUVs, the most popular transport of respondents.) Twenty-three percent said they normally didn’t have lunch at all, raising questions about the size of their breakfasts, the timing of their dinners, and if they were human.
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