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Can you be too connected?

Are you drowning with requests from your colleagues? Are you like the over 50% of Americans who take work home? If the answer is yes to these questions, you might be overly networked.

Research shows there are many advantages to having a diverse network at work (you can read about some of the research here, but sometimes we can become overly connected. My work with Kristin Cullen-Lester and Donna Chrobot-Mason shows that those individuals who are central in the work place network risk becoming overloaded, which in turn reduces their well-being.

Think about Helena, a newly promoted manager, she is eager to please both colleagues. Rather than delegate or let anyone down, she says yes to everything. In three months after her promotion, she is working 12 hour days just to keep up, her quality of work is down, despite the effort she is putting in. Her relationships with her colleagues and her family and friends are strained. She is struggling. If you want to be successful are you doomed to be over-connected and overloaded? The good news, based on our research is the answer is no, there are skills you can employ to avoid overload and improve your well-being.

Our research suggests that one of the most important keys is your level of political skill (click here for a brief intro). Politically skilled individuals are better able to delegate, know when to say no, and how to get people on their side, which can help them manage the stress of being overly connected.

So how do you work on this: 1) Seek out feedback from a mentor or trusted colleagues. 2) Practice. All skills require hard work and reflection to learn. You might not get it right the first time, but with practice you will improve your political skill, and likely your well-being.

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