Author - Couples That Work
Jennifer Petriglieri is an Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD and the author of Couples That Work, a book on how dual-career couples can thrive in love and in work.
Her award-winning research and teaching focus on identity, leadership, and career development. She is particularly interested in how people’s close relationships shape who they become professionally and personally, and how moments of uncertainty and crisis make us who we are.
She was named one of the world’s best 40 business school professors under 40 by Poets & Quants. Her research has appeared in the Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Learning & Education, and the Journal of Organizational Change Management. It has also been featured in the Business Week and the Harvard Business Review.
A British citizen, Jennifer earned a PhD in Organisational Behaviour from INSEAD. She also holds an MBA from IMD, Switzerland, and a BSc in genetics from Nottingham University, UK. Prior to joining INSEAD, she was a Post-Doctoral Fellow of Organisational Behaviour at the Harvard Business School. Her husband, Gianpiero Petriglieri is also an Associate Professor at INSEAD and is an expert on Leadership and Learning in the workplace.
In our conversation, we get into the details of the key questions around the three transitions that Jennifer speaks about that most couples go through. Transition 1) "How do we make it work" when we move from parallel tracks to a single track. Transition 2)"What do we want to become" as couples navigate mid-life. Transition 3) "Who are we” as a couple.
Published in Feb 2020.
Nuggets from the
The case for double-primary careers
Jennifer speaks about the notion of a primary career and a secondary career in the context of a couple. She goes on to speak about the benefits of a double primary career. She says that a double primary model precipitates the need for a couple to have honest conversations around choices, priorities and what matters to them. These things could potentially be brushed under the carpet in primary-secondary career models in couples.
The 3 big transitions that couples go through
Jennifer speaks about the underlying architecture of her book and lays out the 3 transitions that most couples go through in their journey. Transition no. 1 is about the question – how do we make this work? Transition no.2 is often about the question – what do we want to become? Transition no.3 is often about the question who are we? She speaks about the criticality of addressing these as a couple and not just as individuals.
The first transition - How do we make this work?
Jennifer speaks about the context behind the first transition which is often about couples having a discussion about how they make the relationship work. She mentions that in the initial years after marriage, couples are often leading parallel tracks. The first transition is often triggered by an event (one of the spouses gets a promotion and has to relocate or you have your first child). These situations can force couples to have conversations around how they make the relationship work. The parallel model begins to break down at this stage.
Watchouts during the first transition
Jennifer speaks about the kinds of issues that trips couples up during the first transition when they are trying to navigate the question – how do we make this work. She speaks about three themes a) focusing on the short term b) trying to have it all c) over-indexing on economic criteria for decision making.
The second transition - What do we want to become?
Jennifer speaks about the second transition that couples often go through in their journey. The primary question that each member of the couple is grappling with is often around “what do we want to become”. She speaks about how couples can go beyond the “zero sum” discussions around the topic (I win, you lose or vice versa) to developing more of a positive sum mindset.
Securing the base for the other to explore
Jennifer speaks about the notion of a mutual secure base relationship and how individuals can enable their spouse to find their “sweet spot”. She speaks about the notion of how we could provide support but layer on top of that a gentle kick away from the comfort zone and be arm’s length about it. Both these elements are quite counter-intuitive to how a lot of people operate. She also speaks about the criticality of relational resilience that is required to weather this phase where there could be a high incidence of divorce.
The third transition - Who are we now?
Jennifer speaks about the third transition that couples often face often when they are empty nesters and when they have exhausted the gunpowder in their artillery. They now take stock of life and say “Who are we now” and what is the purpose behind our existence.