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How I Get It Done

How Your Spouse's Personality Affects Your Success At Work

Turns out who you married could be the reason why you didn't get that promotion.

[Photo: Flickr user mrhayata]

Finding the right person to marry obviously has an affect on your happiness, but new research shows that it also has a lot to do with your career success.

According to new research from Washington University in St. Louis, your spouse's personality influences your work life.

"Our study shows that it is not only your own personality that influences the experiences that lead to greater occupational success," says lead author Joshua Jackson, "but that your spouse’s personality matters too."

Jackson and co-author Brittany Solomon, a graduate student in psychology at Washington University, studied the lives of nearly 5,000 married people, ages 19 to 89. Both spouses worked in about 75% of the sample.

The participants were given psychological tests to assess their openness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness. Over five years, they tracked their job satisfaction, salary increases, and how promotion-eligible they were.

Those who felt best about their work lives were more likely to have spouses who scored high on conscientiousness. The correlation between a supportive spouse and a successful significant other held up, regardless of gender.

What makes a considerate partner an indicator for success? Three factors can explain why these duos succeeded, the researchers found:

  1. Relying on one’s partner to split housework, which the researchers call outsourcing, meant less worrying about errands at work.
  2. Being a supportive partner encourages similar behavior in the other. Being reliable at home makes for a more trustworthy employee; if your spouse trusts you to pick up groceries on the way home, you’re likely an employee whom your boss can trust to deliver good work on time.
  3. Finally, having a conscientious spouse and a happy personal life is simply a stress reliever.

Ambitious people seek partners who can be supportive of their big dreams.

These finding build on previous studies that show the correlation between isolated personal-life incidents and work performance: A struggling partnership at home can wear on professional performance in subtle ways, too. Spouses don't have to be actively fighting to affect one another's work—they can just be mismatched personalities.

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