We all know that our significant other has a big impact on whether we live a happy life. But according to research from Washington University in St. Louis, your significant other’s personality also influences your behavior at the workplace.
In fact, when it comes to pay raises, promotions and other measures of career success, a supportive and reliable partner may exert a bigger influence on your workplace performance than you realize. In contrast, a struggling partnership at home can wear on professional performance in subtle ways.
According to Joshua Jackson, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences and lead author of the study, “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.”
The five-year study looked at the lives of 5,000 married people (ages 19-89) split between couples where both spouses worked (75%) or where one spouse was a stay-at-home parent (25%). Researchers tracked job satisfaction, salary increases, and promotion-eligibility of the participants who were also given psychological tests to assess their openness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness.
Workers who scored highest on measures of occupational success tended to have a spouse with a personality that scored high for conscientiousness. The correlation between a supportive spouse and a successful significant other held up, regardless of gender.
Success is a team-effort. The researchers found that three factors drive couples who succeed:
- Splitting day-to-day household chores like paying bills, buying groceries and raising children. The “outsourcing” of some of these tasks meant less worrying about errands at work.
- A supportive and trusting partner subconsciously encourages their spouse to emulate good habits. 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.
- Finally, a conscientious partner who is diligent and reliable is a stress reliever. A spouse that keeps your personal life running smoothly will reduce stress and make it easier to maintain a productive work-life balance.
Career success is a long, slow and exhausting process. It’s like running a marathon that lasts 40 to 50 years. Having a partner who is supportive of your ambitions, who pushes you to keep going when you want to give up and who takes the load off your shoulders on days when you’re overwhelmed can be the factor that makes or breaks you.