Research reveals how your partner shapes your business success
If you want to get ahead in the workplace, you can forget looking for a partner who is hot.
As boring as it sounds, if you really want to stand out from the crowd, you need to hook up with someone who is conscientious and hard-working.
Psychology researchers at Washington University have found there's plenty of truth in the old saying that behind every great man there's a great woman, and vice versa.
Their study entitled The Long Reach of One's Spouse, which was published late last year, shows a link between spouses' personalities and occupational success.
Having a conscientious partner is associated with greater job satisfaction, higher earnings and increased likelihood of promotion, for both men and women.
Hard-working helpmates perform more household chores, behave pragmatically and promote a happy home life, enabling their other halves to focus on doing well at work, the study has found.
It couldn't be truer in my case, says software security specialist Ty Miller, who claims he has earned an international reputation as a hacking guru.
While he's focused on a series of senior management roles and establishing his own consultancy, his wife, Natalie, does double shifts on the home front, Miller says.
"At this stage in our lives, juggling young children, the demands of family life, with your own family and your parents and siblings, is a challenge," Miller says.
"It is just hard work and I really think that my wife pulls this all together and keeps us heading in the right direction."
While gauging conscientiousness and work ethic may not be a priority when you're getting to know a potential partner, clues about their future behaviour soon emerge, Miller says.
"I think these traits are something that appeal to you in different ways when you first meet . . . Things like reliability, kindness, a sense of humour in the everyday – even when everything is collapsing around you – just gives you the confidence that this person understands who you are," he says.
"I have always studied and worked in a demanding and sometimes quite dark area of information security and my wife keeps me grounded."
Individuals who lack this sort of support on the home front find it harder to scale the heights at work, Miller believes.
"If you have a partner that doesn't share the same drive and determination to succeed, then it's eventually exhausting walking that path alone," he says.
"Employees that have a happy home life are more balanced and tend to be the people we all want to have around; it's really that simple."
Couldn't agree more, says The Franchised Food Company founder Stan Gordon, whose fast-food fiefdom includes Cold Rock, Mr Whippy, Nutshack and Pretzel World.
His wife of 34 years, Debra, is a lifter not a leaner who, he believes, deserves much of the credit for his success.
A hairdresser by trade, she took on the role of primary caregiver to their children when they were small, freeing him to pursue his business interests unimpeded.
"She is a hard worker and has been supportive to me," Gordon says.
Ambitious types who don't partner with someone like-minded who shares their value system are behind the eight ball, he believes.
"They don't want to share where you're going; they expect you to do more than your share. You'll fail every step of the way.
"Your partner is so important; you need that support."
Psychology Melbourne corporate psychologist Gavin Sharp notes that co-operation and sound decision-making within a domestic partnership tend to carry over into the work environment.
Conversely, being in a fractured relationship which doesn't buffer work stresses makes things much harder for ambitious types shooting for the top.
Careers expert Edwin Trevor-Roberts says the research verifies something we've known intuitively forever: people bring their whole selves to work.
"They don't leave their personal life when they walk into the office," he says.
"Instead, their personal life flows through everything they do . . . The best piece of career advice I was ever given is 'do your job well'. The more effective we are at work, the more opportunities become available to us. So any aspect of our life that can improve our performance at work – such as a stable home life – gives us an advantage."