The Sneaky Way Your Spouse Affects Your Job Success

A new study reveals your partner’s personality might influence your work life (and how likely you are to get promoted). 

Photo by Soren Hald/Getty Images

Many married couples strive to leave work at the office, and keep their personal lives at home. But, as a new study points out, your choice in partner can seep into your work life—in a good way. Turns out, your husband or wife could be boosting your office work ethic and priming you for success.

For a study to be published in Psychological Science, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis looked at almost 5,000 married people between the ages of 19 and 89 over a span of five years. Every participant took a personality test to assess how he or she scored on five major traits: openness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness. They also took annual surveys that tracked salary increases and measured how satisfied they were with their jobs and how likely it was they would be promoted.

Take a minute: Do you think you’re more conscientious or agreeable? What about your partner?

Here’s hoping one of you is conscientious. After analysis, the findings revealed a conscientious spouse helped people bring home the bacon. Employees with high measures of occupational success tended to be married to people who scored high in conscientiousness—and it didn’t matter if the worker was a man or a woman.

“The experiences responsible for this association are not likely isolated events where the spouse convinces you to ask for a raise or promotion,” co-author Joshua Jackson, Ph.D., said in a press release. “Instead, a spouse’s personality influences many daily factors that sum up and accumulate across time to afford one the many actions necessary to receive a promotion or a raise.”

The researchers suggested one reason for this association (besides simply copy-catting diligent behavior on-the-clock) could be that conscientious partners are more likely to handle day-to-day chores, including paying bills or raising children, and that reduced stress at home allows for amped up productivity at work. While people might seek potential husbands and wives who are agreeable, this study says those trying to climb the ladder at work might benefit more from a hard-working, diligent partner.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who jump-started the “Lean In” movement, has said, “the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is.” Sandberg was referring to finding a partner who would share the domestic responsibilities, but she was definitely on to something. While you can’t hand out a personality test on the first date, a partner’s overall nature may just have an impact on your long-term career goals.