Communication and Trust in Global Virtual Teams Thesis

Pages: 9 (2485 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Leadership

Communications -- Building Trust in Global Virtual Teams

Globalization has already changed the conduct of modern business tremendously and in myriad ways. Contemporary business organizations must consider the implications of their decisions in different societies, sometimes adopting significantly different strategies based on local cultures, values, norms, and expectations. In many cases, those elements differ substantially from one society to the next and from the organization's home base. Those differences affect everything from partnering negotiations to human resources and day-to-day operations.

At the operational level, globalization introduces the challenges of creating and maintaining trust in a global virtual team whose members transcend time, space, and culture. As if organizing, training, and supervising work teams were not already challenging enough, the factors introduced by globalization also emphasize effective computer-based mediation of communication groups, cross-cultural communication, and the importance of trust on both the interpersonal and organizational level.

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This project pertains mainly to operational and project management in the realm of external corporate communications, primarily in relation to advertising, promotions, and product and service branding. In this particular environment, work teams must collaborate together smoothly and efficiently to meet firm deadlines set by clients and by seasonal requirements of their industries. In many cases, the timely completion of projects requires extensive communication, coordination, and cooperation among and between teams separated from one another, often by thousands of miles. Those teams comprise individuals from very different backgrounds and cultures; nevertheless, with respect to their work for the organization, they must be able to find common ground and they must establish a comprehensive culture of mutual trust and respect to facilitate their effective collaboration.

TOPIC: Thesis on Communication and Trust in Global Virtual Teams Assignment

Among other issues, the global nature of the organization's commitments means that its various components and subcomponents work in very different external environments that determine fundamental expectations of individuals in relation to gender relations, work ethics, motivation, relations among and between coworkers and their supervisors, social mores, behavioral codes, expectations, and moral values. In that respect, it is likely that a corporate culture that works perfectly well in one part of the world will be much less appropriate or conducive to achieving organizational objectives in other parts of the world. Therefore, organizational policy must incorporate specific policies, procedures, and practices that further the strategic objectives of the organization that are appropriate to differences in cultures of origin and in the differences reflected in specific external environments. Ideally, those policies, procedures, and practices should incorporate differences inherent in local values, norms, and expectations, within an operational framework that is consistent with the achievement of the business goals and strategic vision of the organization.

Research Questions

1. How can organizations establish trust among and between business units working in very different external environments that shape individual expectations and values?

2. How can organizations establish trust among and between supervisors and the members of business units working in very different external environments that shape individual expectations and values?

3. What issues in relation to trust are attributable to the nature of remote supervision irrespective of cultural issues?

4. What are the most important elements of establishing trust on the part of organizational leaders?

Literature Review

Autonomy

There is little doubt that increasing collaboration and participation within their teams requires business managers to focus on enhancing trust in their leadership among subordinates (Douglas & Zivnuska, 2008). In addition to enhancing individual performance, building positive, trusting relationships with subordinates also improves overall organizational performance. One approach that has proven effective in that regard has been building the requisite trust through establishing "high-quality leader-member exchange relationships" characterized by mutual support, common goals, and challenging work assignments (Douglas & Zivnuska, 2008).

Ideally, those dynamics should be emphasized across the broadest possible range of subordinates through leadership training programs that promote the establishment of trust, largely through respect for individual autonomy and increased autonomy earned through individual and team performance (Douglas & Zivnuska, 2008; Maxwell, 2007). In principle, autonomy should only be constrained by the extent to which it is necessary to ensure compliance with very specific objectives and not more than necessary. In general, most workers report that respect for their autonomy is one of the most important elements of good supervision and of a work environment that they consider satisfying and rewarding (Douglas & Zivnuska, 2008; Maxwell, 2007).

The importance of a business leader's ability to build trust among his team is also emphasized by renowned business leadership and management expert John C. Maxwell. According to Maxwell (2007), building trust starts with establishing integrity as a core value of business leaders and their organizations. Specifically, Maxwell argues that in order to establish genuine trust among subordinates, business leaders must demonstrate that they are true to their words, that they uphold the organizational values they promote, that they reward employees based on merit, and that they acknowledge and take full responsibility for their own mistakes and oversights (Maxwell, 2007).

Maxwell (2007) also details the fundamental importance of instilling employee and working group motivation by establishing a corporate culture that allows individuals to progress professionally through high performance. In that regard, Maxwell also recommends that organizations focus on developing leaders from within by emphasizing hiring criteria that reflect corporate values and by developing leaders who are genuinely interested in "raising up" their subordinates commensurate with their abilities and high performance. Conversely, little is more damaging to employee motivation over the long-term than the belief that promotion and career development depends more on relationships and "cliques" than on high performance or the attitude among supervisors that high-performing subordinates are threats to their authority and personal position within the organizational hierarchy. In that regard, Maxwell recommends promoting trust in the supervisor-subordinate relationship by rewarding supervisors specifically for their ability to promote and further the professional development of their team members rather than primarily (or exclusively) as function of their teams' output (Maxwell, 2007).

With respect to remotely supervised working groups, there is no reason to imagine that the same principles would not apply equally. Conversely, to the extent organizational leaders fail to establish trust through the means suggested by Maxwell (2007), that failure would seem to represent a high potential for undermining the factors outlined by Douglas & Zivnuska (2008). That is because the natural desire for autonomy among individual employees is a two-sided edge: where it is incorporated as a means of rewarding high performance, it can be a powerful motivational tool (Douglas & Zivnuska, 2008); however, in the absence of trust between supervisors and subordinates, that desire can be a source of problems, particularly in relationships mediated remotely by computer communications. In that respect, there is evidence to suggest that video conferencing technology can help bridge the gap between the relative effectiveness of in-person communications and remote mediation of global virtual teams (SHRM, 2010).

Interpersonal Dynamics across Digital Media

There is substantial evidence that the difference between the success or failure of the transition from in-person supervision to computer-mediated supervision depends on the effective use of available digital media applications (SHRM, 2010). Specifically, while there is not necessarily any loss of substantive content in email exchanges, there are significant disadvantages to relying on impersonal media to supervise virtual work teams instead of face-to-face interactions. First, written exchanges are substantially more susceptible to misinterpretation and to negative interpretation; second, because trust is largely dependent on interpersonal relations, it is much more difficult to establish trust through an impersonal written medium than through other communications media that at least approximate some of the same elements of face-to-face exchanges between supervisors and subordinates, or for that matter, among and between individual members of virtual teams working remotely (SHRM, 2010).

Ideally, remote computer-based mediation should, therefore, include two-way video conferencing that enables individual on both sides to observe facial expressions and all of the other non-verbal elements of interpersonal communications normally available in face-to-face interactions between supervisors and their working groups. In addition to the importance of those elements of interpersonal communication between each subordinate and his or her supervisor, it also approximates the positive elements of group dynamics among the individual members during group meetings with supervisors that are entirely absent in email communications, even when they are shared simultaneously with the entire group (SHRM, 2010).

Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity

Generally, effective contemporary business management requires attention to matters of cultural awareness and sensitivity both in general (George & Jones, 2008) and particularly in relation to the establishment of trust across the digital medium in connection with remote virtual team management (Yoong, 2009). Within traditional (i.e. on-site) organizational management, domestic cultural diversity is dictated by changing demographics in the national workforce as well as by domestic laws that pertain to human resource management and employment (George & Jones, 2008). In that regard, contemporary business organizations typically implement comprehensive cultural sensitivity policies and training to promote awareness and sensitivity. While those mechanisms are important in traditional business environments, they become even more important in connection with building trust through computer-based virtual mediation of remote working groups (Yoong, 2009).

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