HR Strange But True!
September 16, 2009

Is Your Lunch a Career Killer?

Is your lunch of leftovers holding you back from job advancement? It could be, says e-columnist Helena Echlin on her blog at She believes that toting Tupperware “is like wearing an old cardigan to work; there's nothing wrong with it, but it doesn't project power and success.”

Echlin quotes etiquette expert Beverly Langford as saying that your lunch is an accessory, “a part of your nonverbal communication, just like your jewelry.” So, much like the old “dress for success” theory, you should chose your lunch based on where you want to go with your company.

Last night's lasagna may be tasty, but your lunch should say “management material,” says San Antonio creative director Stan McElrae on the blog. Bringing your lunch conveys that when you get up in the morning, you are deciding what to pack rather than what work you have to do that day, he contends.

One lunch-your-way-up-the-ladder maxim is “expensive is best.” The ultimate lunch? Sushi--delivered! “It reeks of power--and wasabi,” says McElrae.

The other maxim--at 360 degrees--says the ultimate power lunch is a take-out sandwich! “You can eat it quickly, so it makes you look like a go-getter,” explains Langford, “and it doesn't look like you were home stuffing chicken fricassee into a container when you could get to work 5 minutes earlier.”

Langford cautions not to bring your lunch unless the other people in your department do. Otherwise, it's isolating. “You are sending a signal ‘don't invite me to go out with you.'” Even if your colleagues bring back their purchases, and you sit with them in the lunchroom eating last night's remains from your Thermos, it still says “I'm different” because you are eating different food. Even worse, says Langford, is eating the same low-cal or vegetarian meal every day at your desk .

So what is the best lunchtime maneuver? Use pizza as a networking tool! It makes you look successful while on a budget. “There's nothing like ordering in a pizza to unite an office,” McElrae concludes. Leftovers anyone?


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