An interesting evolution in the technological and organizational world has taken shape in response to transforming work environments. Technological advancement has also shifted the trends in the modern workplace, for instance, increased globalization, virtual work, and technology-enabled platforms, which have been instrumental in driving organizations to success. Consequently, these trends have shaped the Industrial Organization (IO) research agendas. Furthermore, as compared to initial IO focus on employee productivity, current concepts, such as employee welfare receive serious attention. Virtual teams are significant components of organizations’ workforce that have emerged, thus creating an impression of a world that has become compound and technological. Nonetheless, virtual teamhas several challenges, particularly in leadership as discussed in this literature review. In addition, creating an appropriate communication and trust between team members can result in effective successand attainment of organizational objectives.
There has been increased globalization of activities within organizations, for instance, the escalation of competition from both local and global organizations. Additionally, improvements in information and communication technology have also enhanced an increased change, hence creating more complex and dynamic opportunities (Hunsaker & Hunsaker, 2008). These changing faces of the world have necessitated organizations to transform their strategies to become more flexible. Virtual teaming has become a new way of managing and organizing work, which allows individuals to work together despite being physically separated. Individuals working in virtual teams use technology to communicate with each other. Virtual teaming, which implies that people work together apart, has been acknowledged to be different from the customary teaming that involved people working together.
According to Malhotra (2007), virtualteamsentail groups of geographically and organizationally spread co-employeesgatheredthrough telecommunications and information technologies to undertake an organizational commission. Through virtual teams, organizations perform numerous functions, such ascross-functional project teams, task forces as well as line management (Brown et al., 2007). Furthermore, virtual teams permit organizations to employ the services of the mostcompetentpersons for a specificoccupation notwithstanding their geographical location. This significant strategy allowsorganizations to quickly respond to increased rates of competition and offer greater flexibility to employees working from home and other places other than in organizational offices (Hunsaker & Hunsaker, 2008). There are several challenges encountered in virtual teams’ way of operation, for example, the issue of different cultures and lack of familiarity, which partially lead to conflicts (Hinds and Bailey, 2003). This necessitates leadership issues, which need to beprogressively more essential for virtual teamsto address different challenges. According to Bergiel (2008), various features differentiate virtual teams from other conventional teams, which can have either positive or negative implications to organizations. The literature discusses some of the factors that are significant in the establishment of a successful virtual team.
According to Hunsaker & Hunsaker (2008), one of the significant features of virtual teams is the element of cross-margins of space. Despite the fact that individuals among the customary teams work in at a close vicinity to each other, individuals encompassed in virtual teams are alienated. Furthermore, members of these groups tend to speak different languages and even if theydevelop ideas of speaking languages of other members of the team, there is still a gap between them as experienced with the face-to-face mode. In most cases, members of virtual teams utilize technologies like email, videoconference, Internet, and telephone among others to communicate. According to Snyder (2003), even if employees in virtual teams have good language skills, they certainlyconstrue written and verbal communication through their own culture filters. In a normal circumstance, individuals who are physically separated from one anotherby distance tend to unlikely share information generouslybesides payingless attention to communication from their colleagues. Therefore, members of virtual teams are anticipated to have more troublein enhancing acommon group uniqueness and focusing on the information and communication flow among themselves. Consequently, this lack of attention decreases the shared understanding in virtual teams (Gibson & Cohen, 2006). Virtual teams with a big geographical gap also have more diversity in standpoints and insolences. A case in hand is according to a research conducted by Karnoe (1995). According to the researcher, Danish and American workershave unlikepatterns for understanding difficulties and probableresolutions, whichare attributed to the differences that result from discrepancies in local customs and behaviorstandards. Additionally, virtual teams are also likely to be demographically differentas compared to collocated teams (Gibson & Cohen, 2006). Therefore, despite the fact that virtual teams permit organizations to be more flexible, adaptive, and responsive through cross boundary workforce, there are issues of cultural context that need to be tolerated and addressed.
All teams within organizations experience challenges in culture, logistics, and communication among others. Nonetheless, in virtual teams among organizations, these challenges are aggravated by the physical gap between group individuals (Brown et al., 2007). According to Gatlin-Watts et al. (2007) research on multicultural virtual teaming project implementation, virtual projects eradicate travel obstacles and enhance a virtual exchange of social info among students located in different nations. In addition, culture encompasses several elements that are visible and invisible, for instance, beliefs and communication styles respectively. These significant scopes need to be acknowledged by organizational leaders in virtual teams. For example, different individuals from different nations have their own way of doing things. Therefore, in as much as the working context is in the form of a team, it is not apparent that everything will be done as a team. Misunderstanding this concept in virtual teams can unintentionallyresult in offending other members of the team (Fleming, 2006). Oertig and Buergi (2006) in their research on cross-cultural project emphasized on an investment in language and intercultural communication training among virtual group members. The two scholars affirmed that there needs to be adequate training, especially for the new members of project teams that are operating in different nations aimed at reducingpossible distrust.This process allowsthe teams to work together quickly.
In most instances, when individuals communicate face to face, a larger percentage of the communication is nonverbal. Nonetheless, this element of communication, which is significant, is lost when individuals in communication do not see or hear each other (Brown et al., 2007). Generally, human beings live and create meaning through communication. Additionally, communication plays a significant role in several aspects of the society. The innovation of several technological instruments has also enhanced organizations’ competitive edge. Numerous organizational devices have been provided to organizational leaders and the common ones include e-mail, videoconferencing, groupware, and project management softwareamong others. These equipment and mechanisms enable organizational members of virtual teams to exchange information regardless of their geographical locations. Despite many virtual team members experiencing effective working outcome across space and time, the major challenge that arises is the concept of communication problems (Grenier & Metes, 1995). This is because ofthe lack of project visibility, strain in contact, and technology constrictions (Hunsaker & Hunsaker, 2008).
According to Brown et al (2007), virtual teams’members, therefore, need to becautious about closing the response loop, being activein communication, and avoiding making shallow conclusionsas well as making the conversation captivating. It is apparent that different individuals from different national cultures have different communication styles as well as group behaviors. Therefore, effective use of communication, particularlyin the initial stages of the teams’ development, is significant in achieving and upholding trust (Anderson et al., 2007). Virtual teams’ members need to be effective in their communication since the success of the teamsrelies on the ability of the membersto interact and exchange information in overcoming the existing challenge of space and time (Bergiel et al., 2008).
Additionally, limitations emanate from communication technologies, which can easily cause misinterpretation. This is because they lack the same fruitfulness as compared to face to face communication. Moreover, cases of delays in transmission and the absence ofcommon and nonverbal cues in the technologies can act as a barrier to open communication, sharing of knowledge as well as the aptitude to resolvemisinterpretations (Gibson & Cohen, 2006). One of the fundamental elements in building trust among virtue members is knowledge sharing. Nonetheless, this concept is ineffective when individuals involved are required to pass through complex ideas using a given medium. Additionally, people find it hard to share difficult information through medium. Despite the fact that the basic messagecould be shared, there can be instances of lessamplification of the meaning of the information, thus negatively impacting the understanding (Gibson & Cohen, 2006). Therefore, leaders of virtual teams need to work together with all team members to come up with clearstrategies concerning effective communication.
For virtual teams to operate effectively, the concept of trust is noteworthy. In face to face communication, trust is simply constructed. According to Handy (1995),for any members of virtual groups to benefit from the efficaciesof the concept,there is a need tore-experiencethe importance ofrunning the organizations grounded on trust rather than control. Trust forms a significant component of organizational growth. Therefore, technology alone is not an enough ingredient in building trust. Therefore, establishing trust is important in ensuring the success of any virtual team.
Despite the fact that virtual teams provide high flexibility besides other prospective benefits, they also haveseveral leadership challenges (Hunsaker & Hunsaker, 2008). Particularly, virtual teams encounter obstacles, such as trust issues, communication barriers, unmet targets, andproblems with cohesiveness (Robey et al., 2000). According to Cascio (2000),virtual teams encounterfive main drawbacks. These include deficiency of physical interaction, absence of face-to-face interactions, lack of trust, absence ofcertainty and consistency, as well as lack of social interaction. Other challenges mentioned by Gibson and Cohen (2006) are technology breakdown, communication casualties, and ineffectivesupport systems among others. Nonetheless, communication is one of the fundamental challengesthat face virtual teams. These encompass components of non-verbal cueslike theadvantages that arise because of subsidiary meetings as well as ineffective focus on the socio-emotional issues (Hron et al., 2000). Therefore, communication challenges in virtual teams make it even more challenging for the leaders to control virtual teams. Since the technologies used in communication among virtual members can be damagedsuddenly and delink the relations among members, there is decreased rate of production. Furthermore, although modern technological communication canenhance theaptitude of the teams in co-operations and coordination,it cannot find a match tothe growth of the teams. Organizational leaders, therefore, need to play a crucial role of being the communication agent among the team members to enhance trust and good relations.
In some instances, some virtual teams’ members can refuse to share information and knowledge in the teams. This also provides another challenge to the team leaders who need to call all the members to collaborate until there is a harmonious and consensus consciousness. According to a research by Oracle Corporation with a group ofskilled executive leaders on the features of leaders working in acompound environment, it was apparent that it is significant for one to become an effective leader (Hanson, 2007). Nevertheless, one of the main challenges that resulted from the study offered a clear path on how leaders need to connect with virtual team members dispersed across time zones.Additionally, virtual teams have two basic primary leadership roles. The first one is performance management and team development (Bell and Kozlowski, 2002). Nonetheless, the biggest challenge for virtual teams is that the rolesneed to be accomplished by leadership alternatives and through allocating them to specific teams (Hunsaker & Hunsaker, 2008).
Another challenge that leaders face in controlling virtue groups is maintaining trust in a team of individuals that workat different geographical locations, in different time zones and cultures as well as different disciplines. In normal circumstances, face-to-face communication plays a significant role in enhancing relationships despite the difference in virtual environments.Therefore, an effective virtual team leader endeavors to search for opportunities that enhance face to face meetings of virtual group members to ensure they work together as much as possible. This process enhances team understanding and hastens the intra-group closeness, thus building trust. Undoubtedly, an effective virtual leader alsoenhances face to face meetings that are aimed at resolvingmajor issues of the team and concerns that result in conflictthrough other means like videoconferencing if face to face is impossible (Holton, 2001). According to Jarveenpaa (1998), several factors can have a negative impact on the trust among international virtual teams. They include distance, cultural differences, and worldwide traversing members besides the dependence on computer-facilitated technology. Additionally, several conservativeways of communication are absent in virtual teams, thus necessitating the need for establishing of trust. According to Hunsaker and Hunsaker (2008), a leader should do five things to boost trust in dispersed operations using virtual teams. They includecreating to face communication, setting clear goals and prospects, giving ongoing feedback, showcasing team members’ability,and enhancing cultural understanding.
This discussion has reviewed several challenges facing virtual teams’ leadership in their environments. Since virtual teams are significant in the current trend of business in the wake up of globalization, there have to be effective measures of addressing these needs. The current organization of firms requires a complete transformation of customary ways of doing things to attain a competitive advantage. Despite various challenges, the important facet is havingan effective leadership in addressing the issues arising from virtual teams. Leaders need to play a significant role, particularly in building trust, through effective and interactive communication among the virtue members.
Bergiel, B. J., Bergiel, E. B., & Balsmeier, P. W. (2008). Nature of virtual teams: a summary of their advantages and disadvantages. Management Research News, 31(2), 99-110.
Brown, M. K., Huettner, B., & James-Tanny, C. (2010). Managing virtual teams: Getting the most from wikis, blogs, and other collaborative tools. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Cascio, W. F. (2000). Managing a virtual workplace. The Academy of Management Executive, 14(3), 81-90.
Fleming, B. L. (2006). THE VIRTUAL TEAMS POCKETBOOK, Management Pocketbooks Ltd., U.K.
Gatlin-Watts, R., Carson, M., Horton, J., Maxwell, L., & Maltby, N. (2007). A guide to global virtual teaming. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 13(1/2), 47-52.
Gibson, C. B., & Cohen, S. G. (Eds.). (2003). Virtual teams that work: Creating conditions for virtual team effectiveness. John Wiley & Sons.
Gibson, C. B., & Cohen, S. G. (Eds.). (2003). Virtual teams that work: Creating conditions for virtual team effectiveness. John Wiley & Sons.
Grenier, R., & Metes, G. (1995). Going virtual: Moving your organization into the 21st century. Prentice Hall PTR.
Handy, C. (1995), “Trust and the virtual organization”, Harvard Business Review, 73 (3), 40-50.
Hron, A., Hesse, F. W., Cress, U., & Giovis, C. (2000). Implicit and explicit dialogue structuring in virtual learning groups. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70(1), 53-64.
Hunsaker, P. L., & Hunsaker, J. S. (2008). Virtual teams: a leader’s guide. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 14(1/2), 86-101.
Jarvenpaa, S. L., & Leidner, D. E. (1998). Communication and trust in global virtual teams. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 3(4), 0-0.
Karnøe, P. (1995, August). COMPETENCE AS PROCESS AND THE SOCIAL EMBEDDEDNESS OF COMPETENCE BUILDING. In Academy of Management Proceedings (Vol. 1995, No. 1, pp. 427-431). Academy of Management.
Malhotra, A., Majchrzak, A., & Rosen, B. (2007). Leading virtual teams. The Academy of Management Perspectives, 21(1), 60-70.
Oertig, M., & Buergi, T. (2006). The challenges of managing cross-cultural virtual project teams. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 12(1/2), 23-30.
Robey, D., Khoo, H. M., & Powers, C. (2000). Situated learning in cross-functional virtual teams. Technical Communication, 47(1), 51-66.