It’s divorce season. As any press officer for any marital law firm will tell you, January is when marriages sadly come unraveled after the stress of Christmas. People in banking and finance are no more likely to get divorced than others (divorce is most prevalent among dancers and choreographers, bartenders, and massage therapists), but banking jobs do involve particular stressors in the form of the notoriously long working hours and demanding roles.
Now, a new study by academics at the Western Carolina University, published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology addresses the issue of how to stay married when you have a stressful job and are part of a dual working household. The answer is simple: if you don’t want work stresses to overflow into your marriage, you need to be politically astute at work.
The academics studied 278 couples. The women were aged 44 on average, the men aged 48. Both worked full time.
For each gender, the academics found that the satisfaction of the spouse was directly related to the other spouse’s “political skills” in the workplace. Political skills were defined as the ability to, “build diverse social networks and leverage them within the organization,” as well as a facility for “apparent sincerity” (‘the ability to appear genuine and sincere despite your inward feelings’). – In other words, being able to get colleagues to do what you want.
When it came to preventing work stresses overflowing into their marriages, the researchers found that men and women used these skills to different ends. Men used them to offset “role overload,” or having too much to do and insufficient time in which to do it. Women used them to offset, “role conflict”, or being asked to do incompatible things by different people. When each partner applied their political skills to this gender-specific category of job stress, the spouse was happier. Wives were especially happy when they had politically astute husbands who used their charms in the workplace to avoid being fraught and overworked in the home.
The couples in question weren’t bankers and spousal satisfaction has also been found to be positively correlated to income, so it could be argued that 40-something bankers can assuage spousal gripes simple by spending on weekend treats. Then again, why risk it? If you can keep a marriage steady simply by building networks with your colleagues, life is likely to be a lot easier – and cheaper.