According to Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, the most important career decision a woman ever makes is who she marries. New research suggests she might be wrong, or at least only partly right. The right spouse appears to be central to career success for both genders.

Everyone knows that how you're getting along with your partner can have massive effects on your productivity and confidence day to day, but according to a new study out of Washington University in St. Louis, your better half's personality isn't just a matter of the occasional cheerful or grumpy morning. Over the long term, his or her character can profoundly affect your career.

The research was led by psychology professor Joshua Jackson and followed 5,000 married people for five years, looking at their personalities as well as markers of career success like income and job satisfaction. What did the team conclude after a half decade of work? "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," Jackson commented.

The best kind of spouse to have if you want to climb the career ladder, according to the data, is one with a high degree of conscientiousness. You'd guess this correlation might come down to a responsible and even-keeled partner taking care of more on the home front, leaving his or her spouse with more mental bandwidth to excel at work, but the researchers concluded that more is going on than conscientious spouses simply handling more chores with less stress.

Jackson and his team also concluded that conscientious spouses might also help by setting a good example, nudging their better halves to be, well, better, by modeling completing tasks and taking responsibilities seriously.

That's probably no surprise to anyone who has been married for some time to someone he or she respects and admires, but still the results offer a healthful reminder about just how valuable a strong and responsible other half can be. If you're single, the likely takeaway is to heed Sandberg's advice and choose your partner carefully. If you're married, consider these results a reminder to go home and thank your spouse for making not just your off hours brighter but also helping your career flourish.

Do you recognize your partner in this study and, perhaps more important, should you hit the florist for a little token of recognition before you head home tonight?

Published on: Sep 24, 2014