The one thing about your partner’s personality that affects your career

The conscientiousness of a person’s partner was found to be a massive predictor of income, number of promotions and job satisfaction

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The Independent Online

Personal relationships can play a huge part in how successful people are during their career.

But there’s one quality in a partner that comes to bear more heavily on our work lives than any other, according to Andrew O’Connell, a contributing editor at HBR.

He looked at two studies. One showed that people spend more time at work when their love lives are going well, because they have greater emotional stability and can focus better on their daily tasks.

The other looks at the personality traits in our partners that have the greatest effect on how well we work.

In this second study, Brittany C. Solomon and Joshua J. Jackson of Washington University in St. Louis looked at data from thousands of Australian households that showed both personality traits in couples and their income, promotions and job satisfaction.

Five personality traits were taken into account: extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness.

Only one of these was found to bear on employees’ long-term performance at work, but it was found to have a huge impact.

The conscientiousness of a person’s partner was found to be a massive predictor of income, number of promotions and job satisfaction – for both genders.

Soloman found that with every 1-standard-deviation increase in a partner’s conscientiousness, the employee earned around $4,000 more per year across all ages and occupations.


Researchers discovered three reasons why conscientiousness is so important to career success.

First, a conscientious partner does their share of the chores at home, so employees have more time to concentrate on work. Second, a conscientious person is likely to make their partner feel more satisfied in their marriage. Third, people have been found to emulate their conscientious partners.

Solomon’s study isn’t the first to show that conscientiousness is the key to success at work.

One 2009 study, Personality and Career Success, found that conscientious people had higher income and greater job satisfaction.

“What’s most damning is that agreeableness and extraversion, two traits most prized by the entrepreneurial elite, seem to have zero impact on any of these measures of human commercial success,” Peter Shallard, who describes himself as “the shrink for entrepreneurs”, said.

Conscientiousness is described as a personality trait of being thorough, careful or vigilant.

Conscientious people are efficient and organised, rather than easy-going or disorderly – they have a desire to do a task well. If the research is correct, they can also help their partners get further ahead at work, too.