Trust in Virtual Teams

Trust in Virtual Teams

Christopher Lettl (Berlin University of Technology, Germany), Katja Zboralski (Berlin University of Technology, Germany) and Hans Georg Gemunden (Berlin University of Technology, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-556-6.ch092
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In the past few decades, organizations have faced radical changes of their business environment. In order to meet the challenges of increasing global competition in a knowledge-based economy, traditional work forms have partly been replaced and complemented by more flexible organizational structures. Thereby, advances in information and communication technologies (ICTs) have created the means for interacting across boundaries both in space and time (Picot, Reichwald & Wigand, 2001; Townsend, DeMarie & Hendrickson, 1998). In this context, virtual teams have increasingly gained attention in theory and practice alike (Ahuja, Galetta & Carley, 2003; Kelley, 2001; Kirkman, Rosen, Gibson & Tesluk, 2002). This new organizational form aims to leverage advantages of the traditional team-based work structure while at the same time coping with the challenges of decentralization and geographical dispersion. Traditional co-located teams have been studied by researchers of many disciplines, such as sociology, psychology, and business studies. Thereby, each discipline has its own focus. Consequently, there is an abundance of theories and no common definition of the term team (Stock, 2004). Generally, a team in any organization can be defined as a social system of three or more people, whose members perceive themselves and are perceived by others as team members, and whose members collaborate on a common temporary task (Guzzo & Shea, 1992; Hackman, 1987; Hoegl & Gemuenden, 2001). Regarding virtual teams, this definition has to be extended by the issues of communication modes and location. Hence, in this article, a virtual team is defined as a social system characterized by context, identity, and common contemporary task, and whose members rarely meet in person, but rather communicate primarily through ICTs, as they are geographically dispersed (Lipnack & Stamps, 2000; Lurey & Raisinghani, 2001; Maznevski & Chudoba, 2000). With respect to the term trust, it has to be taken into account that this construct can be viewed from a rational or social perspective. While the rational perspective centers on the calculus of self-interest—for example, decrease in transaction cost due to less self-protecting actions—the social perspective centers on moral duty (Jarvenpaa, Knoll & Leidner, 1998). Taking an integrated view of both perspectives, the definition from Mayer, Davis, and Schoormann (1995) is adopted: The willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party based on the expectation that the other will perform a particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control that other party. (p. 712)

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