Your Spouse’s Personality Can Help You Get Ahead at Work

Tests on married couples reveal that conscientiousness in a spouse is the most helpful trait if you want promotions and success

married hands
Luke Jarvis/Corbis

Your chance at workplace success certainly depends in part on your personality. Your coworker’s personalities come into play as well—introverts tend to give extroverts poor performance reviews, and supportive supervisors can help women get over gender divides, for example. But apparently, even personalities outside the workplace can affect what goes on inside. A new study shows that spouses’ influence can seep into their partner’s job success.

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, looked at 4,544 married, heterosexual couples, reports Cindi May for Scientific American. They asked the couples to fill out tests that assessed their scores on the "Big Five" personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, neuroticism and agreeableness. Next, the team followed those couple for five years as they reported their job success, satisfaction, wages and promotions. They also gathered information about household chores, lifestyle decisions and marital satisfaction.

So how should the career-minded individual choose a spouse primed for job success? Find a partner that scores high on conscientiousness, the research team reports in the journal Psychological Science. Conscientiousness is characterized as being thorough, principled and organized. High scores there predicted better income and job satisfaction. People were also 11 percent more likely to get a promotion with a conscientious spouse.

The trait helped out because conscientious spouses seem to help out with chores and making important decisions, May writes for Scienctific American. “Conscientious people tend to be resilient in the face of setbacks, and they’re thorough. They finish what they start,” one of the study authors, Brittany Solomon, told Fortune. “Over time, those traits can rub off on a spouse. People often unconsciously emulate those they live with—and the qualities we associate with ‘conscientious’ types are the same ones that lead to success in a career.”

In short, marrying someone who you can depend on can cut down on stress at home and set you up for success at work. While pulling out a questionnaire during early dates might be gauche, this information is something to keep in mind if you are the career-ladder climbing type.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.