Skip to main content
lego people

The Secret To Work Success Might be Right Next To You

By Carol Church, Writer, Family Album

Reviewed by Victor Harris, PhD, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, University of Florida

What does it really take to succeed at work? Is it innovation, leadership, dedication, or some other virtue? Of course, the answer to this question is bound to vary depending on your industry and position. But there’s another factor you probably didn’t consider that can be key to your occupational success: your spouse.

When you think about it a little more, you’ll probably realize that you already knew this. After all, from First Ladies to coal miners’ wives, women have helped support their husbands’ paid work for generations. But in today’s dual-earner world, does the situation now go both ways?

How Do Spousal Factors Affect Us On The Job?

A study in the journal Pyschological Science probes the issue, examining how our spouses’ personalities affect our own satisfaction, income, and likelihood of promotion at work. Employees and their partners both completed questionnaires that focused on five well-known aspects of personality, including factors like extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. They also said who tended to do more chores around the house.

A Conscientious Spouse Is Good News At Work

For both men and women, having a more conscientious spouse was linked to all kinds of positive outcomes in the workplace. People whose spouses were more conscientious made more money, were more likely to be promoted, and were even more satisfied with their jobs. Notably, people with conscientious spouses also said they tended “outsource” domestic chores to their spouses.

This hints at one pretty obvious explanation for why this phenomenon exists: employees whose partners are responsible and hard-working may be relying on those partners to pick up the slack at home. Presumably, this allows them to focus on work and get ahead on the job.

The Imitation Effect

Having a conscientious spouse also benefited workers because we tend to imitate each others’ behaviors. If our husbands or wives are hard-working and responsible, we may “copy them” and be that way too! People with spouses in this category were also more satisfied with their relationships—another benefit.

Stay-Home Spouses A Bit More Influential

Although this effect was found regardless of gender, it is worth noting that spouse personality seemed to matter more for employees with stay-at-home partners. But conscientious spouses who worked definitely contributed to their partner’s work success, too.

We fall in love and marry for many reasons, and “Will he help me get promoted?” isn’t necessarily at the top of the list. But it’s still interesting to know that having a responsible spouse affects our own occupational achievement. If you have a partner who makes things easier for you at home, don’t forget to appreciate him or her! The benefits may be broader-reaching than you know.

(Photo credit: LEGO a Day 349/365 by Chris Christian. CC BY 2.0. Cropped.)


Solomon, B. C., & Jackson, J. J. (2014). The long reach of one’s spouse: Spouses’ personality influences occupational success. Psychological Science, 25(12), 2189-2198.