It pays to be picky

New research finds picking the right partner will make you more successful

Graphic by Jen Goertzen

Most people say they have a type – an image of the sort of person they find themselves attracted to consistently. Some people are attracted to athletes, some people prefer musically inclined partners, and others are simply looking for people with blue eyes. What most people do not consider is their significant other’s effect on their success in the workplace. But maybe they should.

New research fresh out of Washington University in St. Louis, by psychology researchers Joshua Jackson and Brittany Soloman, found that not only does your significant other dramatically affect your life at home but they also play a major part in your career prosperity.

The recently completed study followed roughly 5,000 married individuals, about 75 per cent of whom were dual-career partners, ranging in age from 19 to 89, over the course of five years. Participants took several psychological tests at the beginning of the study to gauge their scores in five basic domains of personality: openness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness – also known as the “Big Five” inventory.

The “Big Five” questionnaire poses several self-reflective statements and requires the participant to state how strongly they agree with the statement. When the questionnaire is complete, the participant is placed on a continuum for each broad factor, resulting in an extremely detailed and accurate analysis of their personality, so long as the questionnaire was answered truthfully.

Participants of the study also completed measurements of occupational success by tracking on-the-job performance, job satisfaction, salary increases, and the likelihood of receiving a promotion throughout the entirety of the study.

Most researchers believe partners who rank high in agreeableness tend to facilitate career success, and their theory has been backed up by several studies. In this study, however, they found that workers with the highest level of occupational success tended to have a spouse who scored high in the conscientiousness domain – regardless of whether the working partner was male or female.

Conscientiousness, in this case, refers to the way in which people control, direct, and regulate their impulses. Individuals who rate high in conscientiousness are self-disciplined, aim for achievement, and act dutifully. These people are organized and dependable, provide reliable support, and are skilled at managing and planning their lives. Therefore, through their actions and attitudes they are able to create an environment to facilitate occupational growth and success.

According to Jackson, the small tasks and occurrences at home individually do not effect job performance, but rather the accumulation of daily interactions and experience. Having someone reliably replace the toilet paper roll or make coffee every morning can profoundly affect your vocational prosperity.

“The experiences responsible for this association are not likely isolated events where the spouse convinces you to ask for a raise or promotion,” said Jackson.

“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.”

Next time you’re perusing a Tinder profile or on a first date, subtly (or not so subtly) find out how conscientious your potential partner is – maybe you’ll be the next Warren Buffett.