What is an Empty Suit

An empty suit is a company executive that provides little to no value to an organization and may be either ineffectual or an impediment to productivity. An empty suit may have achieved their elevated position due to unfair hiring practices, such as nepotism, and tend to be unaware of how their action or inaction effects a company or may be aware and not care. An empty suit may also refer to someone who makes themselves out to be much more able or important than they really are. 

Breaking Down Empty Suit

Generally, "empty suit" is used to describe someone who is not particularly good at their job and displays a false sense of confidence. An empty suit may also be referred to or related to a "hollow man," a "petty tyrant," or a "tin god," to denote that there is 'less than meets the eye.' Put another way, an empty suit may know how to dress for a role but may have no idea how to play it. As such, empty suits may have exemplary sartorial and grooming habits but very little aptitude. Most often, empty suits will lack the ability or initiative to think independently or come up with an original, unique idea. Instead, an empty suit will recycle an old idea and attempt to pass it off as a new one, or take credit for someone else's idea.

Empty Suit Environments

Empty suits tend to be found in larger, more bureaucratic organizations. Incompetent employees who know how to work the system can climb into positions of authority that they may not deserve or are not able to maintain effectively. Some consider governmental positions to be commonly filled by empty suits that were appointed for political reasons.

Empty Suit Modus Operandi

Empty suits tend to speak in a way that is consistent with company-approved positions that may sound foolish to colleagues. Such talk, at its core, is meaningless because the empty suit has no intention of acting on their statements. Empty suits may talk in platitudes, possibly acknowledging a problem but doing nothing to address or rectify it. Some examples of this deflecting speech include "these things happen" or "it is what it is." Such actions to avoid responsibility extend to empty suits not admitting to their own personal errors, often by deflecting blame to the group as a whole or on subordinates.

Empty Suit Identification

Empty suits may possess some of the same characteristics as truly competent individuals, such as charisma, polish, gravitas, confidence and communication skill. Empty suits may nail interview questions but the similarities between effective leaders and ineffective leaders stop there. The difference between truly effective executives and empty suits is accountability and focus. Effective leaders do not pass the buck, waste time on style over substance, and take personal responsibility for outcomes, including mistakes and failures.