Crossover: Is Your Job Hurting Your Partner?

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We’ve talked about work-life balance and work-family conflict several times before. Work-life conflict looks different for different types of families and single workers. While we know the impact it can have on employees, what about the people around them? There’s a whole stream of research that looks at the positive and negative impacts of work experiences on the employee’s partner. Today, we talk about this concept of crossover and how it can impact your partner.

Crossover is the process that occurs when the psychological well-being of one person affects the well-being of another person. It can be both positive and negative. In other words, you can transfer things like depression and anxiety to your loved one or happiness and life satisfaction. Thus, it’s important to focus on your well-being to make sure those around you are well too!

The Dark Side of Crossover

Over the years, research has shown that stress and other negative emotions and reactions can be transferred across individuals. For example, we know that depression can be transferred within couples through crossover.

Stressed employees often go home and make their partners stressed too!

Interestingly, this happens with work outcomes. Not only can one partner transfer the general feelings of stress to another partner, they can also transfer burnout. One study found that husbands and wives transfer both feelings of exhaustion and cynical attitudes towards work to each other. In other words, if one person was experiencing burnout, the other partner would start feeling the same way.

Another study found that stressed employees talk negatively about their work week with their partners. This leads to those partners also feeling stressed. The following week, both partners withdrew from, or were less engaged at, work. Not only does crossover impact a partner’s emotional state but also their behaviors at work.

So what can you do to not make your partner feel more stressed? Keep your own stress at bay! If you aren’t feeling burnt out or stressed at work, you won’t be bringing any of those negative energies home to spread to your family. Obviously this is easier said than done but, luckily, we’ve written about many techniques to help you cope with stressful work environments before. Try them out and keep your home happier!

Organizations should also be stepping up. Imagine if all companies had a great work environment? Crossover wouldn’t be an issue! Providing ways for employees to manage stress and reducing stressors in the workplace would be hugely helpful! But, they can take it one step further! What about providing employees with tools on how to help a stressed out partner? If they can help their partner not experience stress, then they won’t be bringing that stress back to work with them. Win-win!

The Light Side of Crossover

There is a positive side to this idea of crossover. Positive emotions and behaviors are also transferable across individuals. This means that happy employees can help make their partners happy, which, in turn, makes the partners happy employees!

The ultimate power couple *might* start through positive crossover of work engagement!

Multiple studies have shown that highly engaged employees can impact how engaged their partners are at work. Engaged employees also bring happiness to the home and improve their partners’ overall happiness. Isn’t that amazing? If you love your job and your work environment, you can potentially impact how your partner feels too! The caveat is, of course, that their work environment cannot be absolutely miserable. But if your partner has a decent work environment, you can boost their engagement and happiness just by sharing your own. You can create your own power couple!

A big takeaway from all of this research is how impactful the workplace can be to your personal life. You can hurt or help the well-being of the people around you just based on how you feel about your work and how you express it at home. Try to keep that in mind when you come home from a particularly bad day. We would never tell you not to share with your partner because that support system is hugely helpful. But, maybe you shouldn’t complain constantly about small things that don’t really upset you. If you find yourself in an environment that makes you feel stressed all the time, maybe you should consider a change for your family, if not for yourself.

Also, we recommend supporting your partner in their career ups and downs. Are they in a bad workplace? Are they bringing stress into the home? Try to help them figure out a new, positive move. Help your partner find a satisfying and happy work situation, not only for their wellness, but for yours and everyone else involved!

Just keep in mind how much your work impacts others and how much their work impacts you and try to make positive changes where you can. We’d love to hear your stories. Have you ever negatively impacted your loved ones due to a bad job? Has someone brought you down because of their work stress? What about the opposite? What positive crossover have you experienced? Let us know!

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