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The secret to career success? Your spouse's personalityLike me, you may have worked with someone whose relationship at home affected their work, such as a row at home distracting them the next day. As well as the short-term affects, your relationship with your spouse may have a longer-term impact on your career success.  Specifically, researchers at Washington University have linked career success to your spouse’s personality.

They studied 5,000 people over five years and assessed their spouses’ personality traits – openness, extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness. Participants took annual surveys assessing their career success, measuring income, likelihood of promotion and job satisfaction.

The study showed that participants whose spouses’ scored highly in conscientiousness achieved greater career success. This was the case regardless of whether the working spouse was male or female, or whether both spouses worked.

They gave the impact some context: people with extremely conscientious spouses are 50% more likely to get promoted than those with extremely unconscientious spouses. They were also far more likely to have greater job satisfaction, which is most important in my book.

Why is this? They tested a number of theories and found three reasons:

  1. Outsourcing‘ – their partner may handle more of the household chores.
  2. Emulating – workers were more likely to emulate their spouse’s conscientiousness both at work and home.
  3. Less stress– a spouse who helps keep your personal life running smoothly makes it easier to maintain a productive work life balance.

This study highlights one aspect of the complex interactions between work and non-work life. It doesn’t advocate dumping an unconscientious spouse to benefit your career (most research shows that the stress of divorce decreases productivity for at least five years).  It does however emphasise the importance of increasing awareness about how our personalities affect our partners, and of investing in our relationships.

The study also implies that employers should look more positively on policies like flexible working and telecommuting, as these make it easier for staff to spend time with their loved ones.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – please feel free to comment.

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Thanks to Bizior for the image