Virtual Teams: People Working Across Boundaries with Technology

Working in a Virtual Team

If you're part of a virtual team, then Marissa's situation may sound familiar. Virtual teams are commonplace. But, while they offer flexibility, increased job satisfaction, and higher productivity, virtual teams also come with a number of challenges that, if not addressed, can undermine goals, relationships, and team effectiveness. In a study published by the Academy of Management Executive, the authors describe a virtual team as a "group of people who work independently with shared purpose across space, time, and organization boundaries, using technology to communicate and collaborate.

Working in a virtual team presents many challenges. When you can't see your colleagues face-to-face, and you can't have the social interactions that build relationships and rapport, it can be difficult to establish trust. If it isn't managed correctly, this lack of trust can undermine everything that the virtual team is trying to achieve.


Virtual Teams: People Working Across Boundaries with Technology, 2nd Edition. Jessica Lipnack, Jeffrey Stamps. ISBN: Sep PDF | On Jan 1, , Jessica Lipnack and others published Virtual Teams: People Working Across Boundaries with Technology / J. Lipnack, J. Stamps.

Another major challenge is communication, especially when a virtual team includes members from different countries and cultures. There are many tools and strategies that you can use to work successfully in a virtual team.

We look at these below. Effective communication is important within a virtual team. Open, honest communication not only helps you avoid misunderstandings, but it will also increase your effectiveness. To find out how well you communicate, and to get tips on how to improve your weakest areas, take our interactive quiz, " How Good Are Your Communication Skills? An important part of communicating clearly is knowing how to listen. Give the other person your full attention; not only will you understand them better, it's also a sign of respect and courtesy.

Keep in mind that your team members' Internet connection might not be as fast as yours, so speak slowly and clearly. Try to speak as if everyone is in the room with you, and encourage people to ask for clarification if they miss something, or if the sound quality is poor. Also, try not to interrupt when others are speaking.

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Working in a virtual team presents many challenges. Many of Marissa's co-workers are located in different countries, and they rely heavily on email, instant messaging, and video chat to communicate. Request permission to reuse content from this site. When this occurs, think about how you're going to communicate. A productive virtual team demands integration at both internal and external levels under the shared leadership. Chris marked it as to-read Oct 01, Lori marked it as to-read Jan 28,

When communicating with IM or email, be aware that messages can be misunderstood, particularly if they have emotional content. Agree with your team that it's OK to use emoticons , and then use them to clarify any message where the emotional meaning could be taken the wrong way. At times, you might need to raise issues with your boss or colleagues, or participate in other sensitive discussions. When this occurs, think about how you're going to communicate.

However, when this isn't possible, use Skype voice, video chat, or phone, rather than email or IM. When your team members can hear your tone of voice or see your facial expressions, they're less likely to misinterpret what you're saying. When you're part of a virtual team, it can be tempting to let issues — or perceived unfairness — slide by.

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However, if you don't speak up and voice your concerns, these issues can become bigger problems over time. You owe it to yourself and to your team to be honest about any issues that arise. Often, it's best to voice these concerns when they happen. These tools can give you an insight into their personality, home life, and interests. Also, ask your boss whether you can meet your team in person, at least once a year. This can be an expensive and time-consuming suggestion, but spending some time together will help you build trust, and it will strengthen your relationships, particularly if these are sometimes strained.

When you work in a virtual team, you have to make an extra effort with relationships.

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An important part of establishing relationships with teammates is building and maintaining trust. Trust evolves differently in virtual teams. In an office setting, colleagues build relationships and trust through social interaction and collaborative work. Researchers call this benevolent or interpersonal trust.


However, in a virtual team, colleagues build trust through reliability, consistency, and responsiveness — this is called ability-based, or task-based trust. If you agree on a deadline, or you make a promise to call a teammate, follow up on what you say. When you demonstrate your integrity and work ethic, your team members will learn that they can rely on you. Respond promptly to emails and other requests. A quick response shows your teammates that their needs are important to you.

Last, be sensitive to your colleagues in different time zones. If a meeting is scheduled early or late in their region, keep in mind that they might be less vocal or engaged than other team members. If possible, schedule important meetings and deadlines for times when you're both in the office, and don't expect an immediate email response from a colleague who isn't yet at her desk. It's normal for professionals who work virtually to experience feelings of isolation. You might also feel as if your organization has "forgotten" you, if you often work remotely. Katzenbach, author, The Wisdom of Teams "For those who want to lead the movement, catch up with it, orsimply know where it is going, this book is packed with usefulinformation and interesting stories.

Hock, founder and chairman emeritus, VISA " Virtual Teams provides valuable insights into globalteamwork and management through network technologies now availableto all companies, large or small.

Virtual Teams: People Working Across Boundaries with Technology

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