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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Communication Barriers in the Virtual Teams | Unique Assignments

Source: http://uniqueassignments.com/communication-barriers-in-the-virtual-teams/

Communication Barriers in the Virtual Teams





Abstract

Virtual teams are widely used as a solution to the challenges of
organizational complexity and high competitive markets (Ebrahim, Ahmed,
& Taha, 2009). The companies realize the effectiveness of the
virtual teams and invest in the development of virtual teams.
Development of virtual teams is an answer to many organizational issues
but there are specific complexities related with the performance of
virtual teams. In this respect, cultural diversity is an essential
element of the global virtual teams, in which the members communicate
with one another through electronic technologies.  (Daim, et al., 2012).
Research suggests that diverse teams perform better than the
homogeneous teams (Kearney, Gebert, & Voelpel, 2009; Knippenberg
& Schippers, 2007). These findings for the homogeneous teams are
suitable for co- located teams but culturally diversified virtual teams
tend to show lower performance than do the co- located culturally
diversified teams (Daim, et al., 2012). The hypothesis developed for
this research paper has support from the existing research literature.
For example, virtual teams pose challenges in the form of high level of
mistrust, communication gap, high chances of conflicts and more power
struggles (Rosen, Furst, & Blackburn, 2007). Moreover, the problem
solving capacity of the virtual teams is limited due to limitation of
physical contact between the team members and high chances of cultural
conflicts and mistrust among the team members (Cascio, 2000; Hossain
& Wigand, 2004). The communication barrier is a significant factor
in the culturally diversifies virtual teams (Shachaf, 2008). Therefore,
culturally diverse members of the virtual teams face many problems in
communicating effectively while culturally diverse members in the co-
located teams do not face such a high level of communication issues.


Introduction

Todays organizational world is facing unprecedented challenges in the
form of diversity and complexity. On one hand, the technological
advancements provide various benefits and growth opportunities to the
organizations but these advancements make the environment
hyper-competitive and volatile on the other hand. In this respect,
organizations tend to utilize technological developments to maximize
their chances of success. Virtual teams offer certain benefits to the
organizations and enable them to deal with the environmental
complexities with complex working structure in the form of global
virtual teams. The organizations can meet the challenges by hiring the
best available talent from different geographical locations of the
world. Considering the suitability and effectiveness of virtual teams
for the existing challenges, many organizations tend to develop and use
virtual teams as an important element of their structure (Suchan &
Hayzak, 2001; RW3 Culture Wizard, 2010).


Communication is an essential and very significant factor for the
organizational and team performance. The virtual teams are more prone to
miscommunication than the traditional face to face collaborating teams
because the members in the virtual teams are less satisfied by
communicating through computer aided communication
technologies (Warkentin, Sayeed, & Hightower, 1997). It is pertinent
to note that communication effectiveness in both the virtual and
traditional teams has been found almost at an equal level but the
members in the virtual teams are not as satisfied as the members in the
traditional teams are. Lack of trust is one of the factors contributing
to the dissatisfaction of the members of virtual teams (Sarker, Ahuja,
Sarker, & Kirkeby, 2011).








This study is based on the hypothesis that virtual team members from
different cultures and with different national origins tend to
experience greater barriers in effectively communicating, collaborating,
and understanding each other than do team members operating in
face-to-face environments. This study will augment the hypothesis with
the help of empirical and theoretical support from the existing
literature on communication and virtual teams.


Literature Review

Flexible and lean structure is a requirement of the organizations
facing severe challenges and complexities (Townsend, DeMarie, &
Hendrickson, 1998). Virtual teams are widely used as a solution to the
challenges of organizational complexity and high competitive markets
(Ebrahim, Ahmed, & Taha, 2009; Carlson, Carlson, Hunter, &
George, 2013; Eseryel, 2013). The organizations realize the
effectiveness of the virtual teams and invest in the development of
virtual teams. Development of virtual teams is an answer to many
organizational issues but there are specific complexities related with
the performance of virtual teams. In this respect, cultural diversity is
an essential element of the global virtual teams, in which the members
communicate with one another through electronic technologies (Daim, et
al., 2012).


Research studies suggest that diverse teams perform better than the
homogeneous teams (Knippenberg & Schippers, 2007; Kearney, Gebert,
& Voelpel, 2009). These findings for diverse teams are suitable for
the traditional face to face teams but culturally diversified virtual
teams tend to show lower performance than do the co- located culturally
diversified teams (Daim, et al., 2012). The hypothesis developed for
this research paper has support from the existing research literature.
For example, virtual teams pose challenges in the form of high level of
mistrust, communication gap, high chances of conflicts and more power
struggles (Rosen, Furst, & Blackburn, 2007).


Moreover, a survey on virtual teams concludes that virtual teams are
more challenging to manage mainly because of complexities and barriers
in the communication among the members. In this regard, the members face
severe problems with respect to dealing with conflict management,
decision making, and opinion sharing (RW3 Culture Wizard,
2010). The other factors including difference of time zone and language,
culture, and technology also intensify the communication barriers. In
addition, the members in the virtual teams face barriers in the form of
lack of collaboration readiness among the members, lack of technological
readiness, and lack of common ground in the form of shared
knowledge (Olson & Olson, 2000). The distance between the team
members is a significant factor responsible for the communication
barriers because the performance of the team members from the very same
culture differs significantly from the performance of collocated team
members (Bos, Buyuktur, Olson, Olson, & Voida, 2010).


Moreover, the problem solving capacity of the virtual teams is
limited due to limitation of physical contact between the team members
and high chances of cultural conflicts and mistrust among the team
members (Cascio, 2000). Staples & Zhao (2006) claim that diverse
teams are less integrated and their members have less satisfaction than
the homogeneous teams but performance of both types of teams remain
equal. Shachaf (2008) claims that cultural diversity has a negative
effect on the communication between the team members but information and
communication technology (ICT) can mitigate the communication issues in
this regard.



The comparative results on the performance of face to face teams and
virtual teams show a mix results; therefore, it cannot be concluded
whether face to face communication is better than computer aided
communication (Rhoads, 2010). Nevertheless, one aspect is quite clear
that face to face communication and computer based communication are not
similar in many respects and these differences have deep consequences
on the performance of the virtual and traditional face to face teams.


Discussion

The virtual teams provide many advantages to the organizations. For
example, virtual teams increase the organizational efficiency by
reducing organizational costs and time. The limitations as faced in the
traditional work environment in the forms of time, space, and
organizational affiliation. Moreover, virtual teams enable the
organization to increase their customers responsiveness by involving
flexibility in human resource management (Suchan & Hayzak, 2001).


Culturally diverse virtual teams cannot be managed with the
traditional approaches of team management. Virtual teams are more
complex than the traditional face to face teams. The basic difference
between virtual and face to face teams is rooted in the difference
between computer aided and face to face communication. This difference
has impact on the important team functions such as decision making, work
pattern, team members relations and the understanding of the
work (Berry, 2011). Therefore, an effective management of the virtual
teams requires a strong knowledge and deep understanding of the basics
of group dynamics. In this respect, transformational leadership plays
more important role in the virtual teams than it plays in the
traditional face to face teams (Purvanova & Bono, 2009).


The review of the relevant literature on virtual teams provides
adequate support in favor of the hypothesis. The culturally diverse and
geographically dispersed members of virtual teams face more barriers
than the diverse members of co- located teams. Therefore, distance is
still an important factor despite an abundance of technological
solutions for global communication. The fundamental difference is due to
difference in the face to face communication and online communication.
It seems that communication through information and communication
technologies is not a complete substitute of face to face communication.
The members in the global virtual teams face problems in understanding
non- verbal cues in the online communication. In addition, the members
face difficulties in developing rapport and trust during their
interaction with the team members (RW3 Culture Wizard, 2010).



Virtual teams are effective in the situation where the team members
have high level of trust and they exchange their knowledge
freely (Pinjani & Palvia, 2013). The computer based communication
poses challenges in developing trust and maintaining a cohesion in the
diverse virtual teams. A possible reason for such problems may be that
the members in the virtual teams have greater impact of their native
culture and they lack in adopting the organizational culture. Therefore,
the global virtual teams face communication challenges more than the
traditional face to face teams.


Conclusion

            The above literature review and
discussion suggest that virtual teams are considered an important
element of the contemporary organizations because they offer certain
benefits to the organization. Though advancement of information and
telecommunication technologies has provided many useful computer based
communication tools, online communication is still not a complete
substitute of face to face communication. A major problem in the virtual
teams is that members face more communication barriers than the members
of traditional face to face diverse teams. The possible roots of these
barriers lie in the non-existence of a common culture for all the team
members. The organizational culture in the traditional face to face
diverse teams neutralizes the impact of individuals’ cultures but the
members in the virtual teams do not have a strong association with a
common organizational culture. The organizations need to understand
these challenges before developing virtual teams for their projects
because the teams lacking trust, cooperation, and urge to share
knowledge will not serve the objectives of the project.








References

Berry, G. R. (2011). Enhancing Effectiveness on Virtual Teams: Understanding Why Traditional Team Skills are Insufficient. Journal of Business Communication, 48(2), 186-206.


Bos, N. D., Buyuktur, A., Olson, J. S., Olson, G. M., & Voida, A.
(2010). Shared Identity Helps Partially Distributed Teams, but Distance
still Matters. GROUP ’10 Proceedings of the 16th ACM International Conference on Supporting Group Work (pp. 89-96). New York: ACM.


Carlson, J. R., Carlson, D. S., Hunter, E. M., & George, J. F.
(2013). Virtual Team Effectiveness: Investigating the Moderating Role of
Experience with Computer-Mediated Communication on the Impact of Team
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Cascio, W. F. (2000). Managing a Virtual Workplace. Academy of Management Perspectives, 14(3), 81-90.



Daim, T. U., Ha, A., Reutiman, S., Hughes, B., Pathak, U., Bynum, W.,
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Ebrahim, N. A., Ahmed, S., & Taha, Z. (2009). Virtual Teams: A Literature Review. Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 3(3), 2653-2669.


Eseryel, U. Y. (2013). Structuring for Innovation:How Virtual Teams Can Adopt Open Source Practices. Proceedings of the Nineteenth Americas Conference on Information Systems. Chicago.


Kearney, E., Gebert, D., & Voelpel, S. C. (2009). When And How
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Knippenberg, D. v., & Schippers, M. C. (2007). Work Group Diversity. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 515-541.


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Purvanova, R. K., & Bono, J. E. (2009). Transformational leadership in context: Face-to-face and virtual teams. The Leadership Quarterly, 20, 343–357.


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Sarker, S., Ahuja, M., Sarker, S., & Kirkeby, S. (2011). The Role
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Shachaf, P. (2008).
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Communication Barriers in the Virtual Teams | Unique Assignments

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