Here comes Christian Grey, the protagonist of Fifty Shades of Grey, sweeping in to movie theaters as the sexy business magnate who charms his love interest into an unusual relationship. In our pursuit of a romantic partner, many of us crave Grey’s magnetism. But you need more than that in a mate if you want to excel in the workplace.
Male or female, you stand a better chance of career success if your spouse or romantic partner is conscientious, reliable, organized, extroverted and generally happy. Rather than Christian Grey, think Michelle Obama, or David Goldberg, SurveyMonkey CEO and husband of Sheryl Sandberg.
“Even if they are not going into your workplace at all, somehow your spouse’s personality is having an influence on your career,” says Joshua Jackson, co-author of new research published in Psychological Science on the link between a spouse’s personality and job success. “People can benefit at work not just because they are married, but in part because of who they married.”
Jackson and Brittany Solomon, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, studied 4,544 married individuals over the course of five years and found that a spouse’s personality can help boost your income, score you a promotion or make you feel more satisfied with your job. Participants ranged in age from 19 to 83; most were in dual-income households and had at least one child.
A conscientious partner contributes to job success — regardless of whether he or she works too — in three ways. First, a “partner” mate helps with household tasks, taking some pressure off the working partner and freeing him or her more often to concentrate on work. Second, a conscientious partner allows the working partner to feel more satisfied in their marriage or relationship — happiness that spills over into greater satisfaction at work. And a conscientious partner sets an example, leading his or her mate to mimic his or her diligent habits. The researchers also found that people with extroverted, outgoing partners are more likely to have higher levels of job satisfaction, “mostly because your spouse is happier and you take that with you into your workplace,” Jackson says.
In searching for a Valentine, Miami relationship expert Maya Ezratti suggests ambitious singles go beyond looks and surface conversation to consider the personality of a potential mate. “If they don’t have the personality to create the conditions that foster your success, you are going to be in trouble,” Ezratti said. Someone who is lazy, resentful or lacks confidence will not partner well with a go-getter.
Most C-suite executives, millionaire entrepreneurs and high-powered law shareholders will confirm that a romantic partner with the right personality can provide career advice, lift your mood while you work, encourage you to see opportunities and even refer you business or help you make connections.
Germaine Smith Baugh finds a spouse’s personality is particularly important to career advancement in dual-income households with children. Smith Baugh, CEO of the Urban League of Broward County, is a rising star locally and nationally as she prepares to host the 2015 National Urban League Conference. She describes her husband, Paul Allan Baugh, who is a middle school assistant principal, as conscientious, easygoing, funny, supportive and a great listener.
Most important, she can depend on him to help at home with their two children. “Our needs as a couple and the demands of the job require someone who is reliable,” she says. “My husband can do everything from cooking, cleaning and ironing to yard work and handy work and still look dapper in a formal for all the events that I have to attend.”
Another CEO, MasTec chief Jose Mas, says a spouse’s personality can be critical to keeping the right mindset at work, particularly in jobs with unpredictable travel schedules. He calls his wife, Patty, “CEO of our home” and says, “It’s her daily management [at home] that gives me the ability to be able to spend quality time with my children and keep a work schedule that is demanding and constantly changing.”
The unexpected daily events are where a partner’s makeup becomes integral to career success, says Tanya Plotnikoff, part of the leadership team at Viewpost, an emerging Orlando electronic invoicing company.
Plotnikoff says she is able to usher Viewpost through its growth stage because of her husband’s supportive personality. Her husband, Stan Carpenter, works in a similar capacity at LSQ Funding, a sister company: “If he wasn’t helping out, making sure the family has healthy meals rather than fast food, I could not take that last meeting of the day.”
These new findings linking a partner’s personality traits and career success supplement previous studies that show your happiness level rises when your mate’s does the same. Research has also found that workers put in more time in the office when their intimate relationships at home are going well, and one’s romantic partner often is the closest workplace confidant.
Conversely a person’s career can be hampered when a partner is narcissistic or refuses to support a mate’s goals.
Those lessons aren’t lost on Melanie Damian, founder of Damian & Valori law firm in Miami, who is divorced.
Her next romantic partner must understand her ambition, accept it and have the right personality to play a role in her success, she says. She is now dating someone who fits that description: “He has to be supportive of my attending functions and being out there. I own and operate a business and practice law. If someone is not understanding of that or threatened by it and doesn’t have the same goals, the relationship will not wind up succeeding.”
Male CEOs and their corporate wives have long understood that it takes two to get to the top of a big corporation, particularly with children in the household. But that realization has been underscored in the past decade as more women moved into top executive roles. Now, it’s almost imperative for both genders who aspire to the top jobs at Fortune 500 companies to have a partner — at home or employed — willing to be devoted to their careers. In interviews, many CEOs of both genders often say they could not have succeeded without the support of their partners, wives or husbands, helping with the children and household chores, and agreeing to attend corporate events or relocate when necessary.
Women who lead the largest private companies in Florida realize they have to be in a relationship that operates as a true partnership, says Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director of The Commonwealth Institute South Florida, founded to help women-led businesses become and stay successful. In fact, Davis says that while she is super-organized, she depends on her spouse, a litigator, to be a reliable partner when her job requires more of her time: “I can’t imagine some being hugely successful in marriage and work if you don’t have someone who helps you be the best you can be.”