Still single and looking for your other half? If you have ambitious career goals, carefully consider what type of person you'd like to marry: New research shows that your significant other's personality plays a key role in how successful you'll be.
A recently published study in the journal Psychological Science examined the careers and personalities of married couples to determine how your spouse affects your work success. The researchers analyzed about 5,000 married people over a five-year period. Around 75 percent of the participants were in dual-income households.
Brittany C. Solomon, a doctoral candidate in psychology, and her co-researcher, Joshua J. Jackson, an assistant professor of psychology, both at Washington University in St. Louis, found that people with conscientious partners tend to have higher job satisfaction and incomes, and receive more promotions. A conscientious person is one who's responsible, thorough and careful; finishes what they start; and is able to quickly bounce back after setbacks and failures.
Conscientiousness Is Key
Interestingly, only one partner in the couple needs to be conscientious to affect their spouse's work success. The study notes that if you aren’t a conscientious person, over time, you'll start adopting your partner's positive traits since “spouses tend to take on each other's traits, especially when their partners possess ideal attributes."
If you're already a conscientious person, you don't necessarily need to be with someone who is also conscientious, Solomon notes, because your spouse will likely emulate your traits and you already have what’s needed for future work success.
While it’s commonly accepted that your personal life plays a major role in your professional life, choosing to spend your life with someone who's reliable may be more important now than ever before. Although the study didn't focus on this particular area, Solomon says, “In the past, each spouse had a specific role in the relationship and specialized in certain areas.” Those areas might include managing the home and caring for the children or financially supporting the family. Each person took care of their share so the other could focus on their own responsibilities.
Today, however, as more women join the workforce, there's been more mixing of responsibilities. As a result, with traditional gender roles now blurred, couples can feel the strain of having too many responsibilities.
“Now it's more common for either spouse to contribute to both roles," Solomon explains, "and thus certain types of spouses—those with high levels of conscientious—will be particularly well-suited to support their partners in a variety of ways that contribute to their partners' success in the workplace.”
Why is this research so revealing? "Previous studies had already examined the effect of one's own personality on career success," Solomon says, explaining how this study is different than past research. "But no one, to our knowledge, had examined partner effects of personality on career success.
“Also, most relationship research focuses on how spouses can influence the relationship itself and one's satisfaction in the relationship, but few studies have looked into the effect of spouses on important outcomes outside of the relationship domain,” Solomon continues. “I think it's fascinating that the personality of one's spouse can influence a person in the workplace.”
The Role Employers Play
We all know that when people have too much on their plate, their work is often negatively affected. A lot of this stress can come from employees’ personal lives. Solomon's research found that spousal relationships and, specifically, personalities can affect the work success of an employee.
In light of this, it may be critical to consider if positive personal relationships are so important for professional success, what can employers do to encourage their employees to build and maintain those relationships? One thing is to promote healthy marital relationships, the researchers say. The happier your employees are, the more creative and productive they tend to be.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: Unhappiness among workers cost U.S. companies $300 billion annually in productivity, according to the ongoing Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. While the health of employees’ marital relationships may not be the explicit mission of a company, it’s beneficial for you to support and facilitate your employees' personal happiness, which will be advantageous for their on-the-job success.
The bottom line: Happy workers work harder for their success, and, in turn, your company benefits from this hard, focused work.
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