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Have a Conscientious Spouse, Get a Promotion


Even if we have a clear and distinct separation between our personal lives and our professional ones, there is no doubt that how things are going at work can affect how we feel at home. Despite our best efforts, most of us find it difficult to not bring home the stresses, or successes, of the day. Likewise, the goings-on of our personal lives can impact our careers.

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(Photo Credit: seanmcgrath/Flickr)

A recent study conducted by Brittany C. Solomon and Joshua J. Jackson of Washington University in St. Louis revealed some surprising results about the impact that specific personality traits of one’s spouse have on income and promotion. Thousands of Australian households were surveyed and employment outcomes were tracked, in order to discover potential links.

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The data covered five traits: extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness. The researchers discovered that only one of these traits, when imbued by one’s spouse, had an impact on career – conscientiousness. The impact of this characteristic was not minor. It was found to play a fairly large part predicting employee income, number of promotions, and job satisfaction.

Andrew O’Connell of the Harvard Business Review broke down the findings:

“To put the income finding in dollar terms, with every 1-standard-deviation increase in a spouse’s conscientiousness, an individual is likely to earn approximately $4,000 more per year, averaging across all ages and occupations, according to Solomon. And one way to frame the promotion finding is that employees with extremely conscientious spouses (two standard deviations above the mean) are 50% more likely to get promoted than those with extremely unconscientious spouses (two standard deviations below the mean).”

Here are a few reasons why this might be the case.

1. A conscientious spouse understands.

Someone who is conscientious understands your need to be the same way. They get it when you have to work late, when you need to bring work home, or when the phone rings in the evening and you have to leave the dinner table to attend to it. They support your devotion to your job, and this allows you to give it your all.

2. They are helping out at home.

Someone who is, by nature, conscientious, is that way at home as well as at work. If you have a spouse like this, they’ll do their part to keep things running smoothly around the house, regardless of whether or not they too work outside of the home. Therefore, the dishes are done, the repairman has been contacted, the dog is fed, etc. This allows a spouse to soar professionally because they aren’t distracted by a big mess and a long to-do list at home. Everyone is doing their part, and things at home feel under control.

3. They encourage you to be conscientious too.

Just when you start to feel like you need a break, a day off maybe, or to scale back your responsibilities, your spouse’s conscientiousness rears up. They remind you that this is important, that you should always do your best, and they offer support to help make that happen. A conscientious spouse helps to bring this trait out in you, and your career benefits.

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How does a conscientious spouse help you get ahead at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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