Yes, networking for the sake of moving your career forward is paramount, but it can really be a hassle; on top of being seemingly self-serving, it’s also just plain old awkward. A new study published in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly shows that our fears of networking actually have a physical effect on us; in particular, networking makes us feel dirty.

This feeling of repulsion or dirtiness, the authors argue, can ultimately have an effect on our work performance by making us avoid networking. “Unlike personal networking in pursuit of emotional support or friendship, and unlike social ties that emerge spontaneously,” the authors write, “instrumental networking in pursuit of professional goals can impinge on an individual’s moral purity — a psychological state that results from viewing the self as clean from a moral standpoint — and thus make an individual feel dirty. We theorize that such feelings of dirtiness decrease the frequency of instrumental networking and, as a result, work performance.”

The paper involved three different studies that examined various aspects of networking. In the first study, the researchers asked 306 adults to remember networking experiences, and to choose whether their experience was to gain a one-sided professional contact that would help them get farther ahead, or if it was a natural, more personal connection with someone. Those who had parasitic one-sided contacts were more likely to fill in the blanks of W_ _ H, SH_ _ ER, and S_ _P with words involving cleanliness (wash, shower, and soap) as though to cleanse their memory; while those who had formed more natural connections filled them in with more neutral words like wish, shaker, and step.

In another study, the researchers divided participants into two groups. The first group was asked to send a message through Facebook to a person they wanted to get to know better socially; the second group was told to send a message through LinkedIn to a person with whom they wanted to network. After sending the messages, the participants answered a survey about their feelings, and described how they felt after sending the message. The first group were more likely to feel dirty than the others.

Here’s the problem: networking is actually useful. A third study within the paper found that people who felt dirty from networking and thus avoided it, actually caused harm to their career. In other words: it's a little unpleasant at times, but you have to do it.

The authors, however, argue that there’s a better way to go about networking than what you might expect. It’s all about the approach; being natural, being yourself, and approaching the connection as though you were starting a new friendship will help you feel better about networking, and frankly, be better at it, too.