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Career Success Depends on Your Spouse's Personality, Too

Career Success Depends on Your Spouse's Personality, Too
Credit: Nivens/Shutterstock

Raises or promotions at work don't necessarily result solely from an employee's performance; the worker's spouse also plays a role, new research suggests.

The personality of an employee's spouse tends to have an impact on career success, according to a Washington University in St. Louis study.

The personality traits of a spouse can play a role in determining whether a chosen career makes workers richer or poorer, said Joshua Jackson, an assistant professor of psychology at Washington University and the study's lead author.

"Our study shows that it is not only your own personality that influences the experiences that lead to greater occupational success, but that your spouse's personality matters, too," Jackson said in a statement.

This doesn't just translate to isolated events in which spouses convince their partners to ask for a raise or promotion, Jackson said. [Got a Stressful Job? A Good Spouse Helps ]

"Instead, a spouse's personality influences many daily factors that sum up and accumulate across time to afford one the many actions necessary to receive a promotion or a raise," Jackson said.

The research was based on a five-year study of nearly 5,000 married people ranging in age from 19 to 89; in about 75 percent of the sample, both spouses had jobs. The researchers analyzed data on study participants who took a series of psychological tests to assess their scores on five broad measures of personality: openness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness.

In order to determine whether these spousal personality traits might seep into the workplace, the researchers also tracked the on-the-job performance of working spouses using surveys designed to measure occupational success, such as self-reported opinions on job satisfaction, salary increases and the likelihood of being promoted.

The study's authors discovered that workers who scored highest on measures of occupational success tended to have spouses who scored high for conscientiousness. This result held true whether or not both spouses worked and regardless of whether the working spouse was male or female.

Additionally, the researchers tested several hypotheses for how a spouse's personality traits, especially conscientiousness, influence a partner's performance in the workplace. The findings suggest that having a conscientious spouse contributes to workplace success in three ways:

  • The working spouse may come to rely on his or her partner to handle more of the day-to-day household chores, such as paying bills, buying groceries and raising children.
  • Workers may emulate some of the good habits of their conscientious spouses. They rely on traits such as diligence and reliability when facing their own workplace challenges.
  • Having a spouse that keeps your personal life running smoothly may reduce stress and make it easier to maintain a productive work-life balance.

The study's authors said the findings have interesting implications for how people choose romantic partners.

Jackson said while previous research suggests that people tend to look for partners who score high on agreeableness and low on narcissism, this study indicates that people with ambitious career goals would be better served to seek supportive partners with highly conscientious personalities.

The study, which is set to appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, was co-authored by Washington University graduate student Brittany Solomon.

Originally published on Business News Daily

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.