Managing Relationships in Virtual Team Socialization

Managing Relationships in Virtual Team Socialization

Shawn D. Long (University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA), Gaelle Picherit-Duthler (Zayed University, UAE) and Kirk W. Duthler (Petroleum Institute, UAE)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-965-1.ch514
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Abstract

The traditional organizational workplace is dramatically changing. An increasing number of organizations are employing workers who are physically and geographically dispersed and electronically dependent on each other to accomplish work (Gibson & Cohen, 2003; Griffith, Sawyer, & Neale, 2003). Recent technological advances, combined with more flexible job design, have helped increase the number of people working in distributed environments. Hence, more employees are working individually and on teams that seldom, if ever, meet face to face. These virtual employees have the same work responsibilities as traditional employees in addition to the challenge of operating within the dynamics of these newly designed mediated workplaces. Rapid developments in communication technology and the increasing influence of globalization and efficiency on organizations have significantly accelerated the growth and importance of virtual teams in contemporary workplaces. Virtual teams are becoming more commonplace because of the possibilities of a more efficient, less expensive, and more productive workplace. Additionally, distributed teams are less difficult to organize temporal organizational members than traditional co-located teams (Larsen & McInerney, 2002; Lurey & Raisinghani, 2001; Piccoli & Ives, 2003). Although there are apparent advantages of organizing work virtually, the challenge for new member integration lies in the fact that team members must communicate primarily through communication technology such as electronic mail, telephone, and videoconferencing or computer conferencing. This increased dependence on technology as a medium of communication significantly alters the way new members are socialized to work teams. Additionally, team members’ ability to use complex communication technologies varies across individuals. This variation potentially may lead to inter- and intra-group conflict, as well as creating organizational work ambiguity, which refers to the existence of conflicting and multiple interpretations of a work issue (Miller, 2006). This article addresses the challenges of virtual team socialization with regard to newcomer assimilation and how newcomer encounter is an embedded process of virtual team assimilation.

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