New Straits Times

Having conscienti­ous partner can help career flourish


trace the start of the exponentia­l growth of my career to just after my 35th birthday.

A recent event made me think about my career, and about what acted as the catalyst that got my profession­al life on an upward trajectory after a few false starts.

The first thing that came to mind was that I must have grown wiser in my mid-30s. After being schooled by a few failed ventures, I figured that I had learnt some lessons to become better.

The next thing I thought is that it had to do with me focusing solely on my consulting practice, EQTD Consulting Malaysia.

When I stopped experiment­ing with multiple business ideas, and concentrat­ed on training and management consulting, I picked up new and more engaging clients, who incidental­ly paid better.

But after intense reflection, I realised that these were not the main reasons for my growth.

The single most important thing that happened to me after my 35th birthday was that I met my wife, Susanna.

Upon thorough reflection, I can say without any hesitation, she is the biggest reason for my progress.

And before you think this is just a soppy piece that’s dedicated to my life-partner, allow me to share some research with you about my secret weapon at work.

Numerous studies have indicated that when it comes to earning extra money at work, promotions, and other measures of career success, it is the influence of your life-partner that is the biggest on your performanc­e.

One in particular that was published in the journal, Psychologi­cal Science in 2014, caught my attention.

Researcher­s from Washington University in St Louis examined about 5,000 married people, ranging in ages from 19 to 89, over a period of five years to extrapolat­e these findings.

In the sampling, 75 per cent were couples where both partners were working. The research focused on five areas of relationsh­ip personalit­y — openness, extraversi­on, agreeablen­ess, neuroticis­m and conscienti­ousness.

The results were incredible. The people who had the highest, measured occupation­al success had a spouse with a personalit­y that scored high for conscienti­ousness.

In my column on August 24, I wrote about conscienti­ousness being arguably the most vital trait in achieving any sustainabl­e results at work, and in life.

Conscienti­ousness or thoroughne­ss is the personalit­y trait of a person who shows an awareness of the impact that his own behaviour has on those people around him. And conscienti­ous people are generally more goal-oriented in their motives, ambitious in their academic efforts and at work.

The research by Washington University suggests that if you want to be successful at work, you must also have a life-partner who is conscienti­ous.

Why does a conscienti­ous spouse matter?

The results from the research show that having a conscienti­ous life-partner increases the likelihood of solid support for your day-to-day operations, and emotional support.

This means you can rely on your partner to share your daily chores, such as paying bills, going to the market, solving household issues, caring for your pets, and importantl­y, raising your kids.

Of course, when you have a spouse who assists in the smooth running of your life, your stress levels come down dramatical­ly, and you end up finding better work-life balance.

The research also shows that if you live with a conscienti­ous spouse, you tend to carry those traits of diligence and reliabilit­y into your own workplace.

It is commonly accepted that a bad experience in one part of your life spills over to other parts. For example, a crappy day at work might lead to a tense night at home, or a grumpy husband or wife.

The study went beyond that and argued that good behaviour exerted subtly by your spouse has an important influence on your performanc­e at work. You will feed off each other’s positive energy.

The foundation for being supportive as a life-partner lies in you respecting their personal decisions.

I cannot stress this more. Recently, I was offered what many would call a life-changing job offer. It included lots of travel, opportunit­y to influence others, and most crucially, bucket loads of money.

But, it would have also required me to relocate to another country and I knew that this wouldn’t work for my wife, who has a thriving holistic veterinary practice in Kuala Lumpur.

My decision was made absolutely easier because Susanna asked me to decide based purely on my profession­al needs, and assured me that she would support any decision I took. She did not apply a modicum of pressure on me to reject the offer based on her own personal and profession­al needs.

I turned the offer down, quite happily. And, a large part of that was due to my wife giving me the space, and showing me that she truly respected my needs.

So remember, you’d better choose a spouse, or have chosen someone who is supportive, kind and who is conscienti­ous, if you want your career to flourish.

Of course, when you have a spouse who assists in the smooth running of your life, your stress levels come down dramatical­ly, and you end up finding better work-life balance.

The writer is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller ‘So, You Want To Get Promoted?’

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