Most people have competing life goals that can interfere with career success. For many, ultimate happiness is not achieved by a strong career alone. Usually, people want a happy home life and positive personal relationships. In a new study, the Washington University in St. Louis found that if one wants to make it at their job, there is one personality type he or she should seek out in a spouse.
That personality trait is “conscientiousness.” Researchers analyzed the personality types and career trajectories of 5,000 married people, aged 19 to 89, over a five-year period. 75 percent of the couples had dual-career homes. Those who made significant moves in the workplace in terms of salary increases, promotions and job satisfaction tended to have “conscientious” spouses, meaning they were reliable, consistent, detail-oriented and organized, according to Fortune.
Study participants were grouped into five categories. In addition to “conscientious,” individuals could also be classed as “open,” “aggressive,” “neurotic,” or “extroverted.” According to study author Brittany Solomon, the choice of a life partner is often based on different personality aspects than what might prove to beneficial for career advancement.
“[P]eople tend to look for a potential mate with a high degree of agreeableness and low neuroticism, [but] our findings suggest that anyone with ambitious career goals would be better off looking for a supportive partner with a highly conscientious personality.”
Fast Company notes that this study adds to the existing volume of research that shows that personal relationships affect job performance. When an individual is a mismatch for his or her spouse, that impact is negative. Fast Company also identifies the three key reasons why a conscientious spouse enhances his or her partner’s career life.
Specifically, a conscientious partner would split housework, significantly decreasing the amount of time spent worrying about errands. Having a conscientious partner often means being trusted by that partner. This trustworthiness carries over to the workplace, where bosses feel they can rely on the employee. Lastly, a conscientious partner generally leads to a happy home life, which results in less stress overall.
Additionally, they can simply pick up the positive traits of their spouse, which are often consistent with a successful career as Solomon notes.
“Conscientious people tend to be resilient in the face of setbacks, and they’re thorough. They finish what they start. 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.”
As for takeaways from the study, Forbes contributor Cheryl Conner said people in general should have an awareness of how their own personalities affect their spouse and promote a team feeling in achieving goals as a couple.
The full study is entitled “The Long Reach of One’s Spouse: Spousal Personality Influences Occupational Success” and will be published in Psychological Science.