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The Influence of Trust and Knowledge Sharing on Virtual Team Effectiveness


  • Thomas, Ted


Virtual teams are a growing response to increased de-centralisation and globalization, and the need for organizations to adapt to an ever changing and complex work environment. Their growing prevalence reflects many different factors, including the increased global reach of many organizations, changing workforce demographics, and heightened competitive pressures requiring greater organizational flexibility and responsiveness. This phenomenon has grown rapidly in recent years through advancements and greater access to technologies for communication and collaboration. Organizations however are being challenged with understanding what makes these virtual teams effective and how to measure the achievement of such effectiveness. Combined with the convergence of telephony and data technologies this has enabled voice and video to be delivered ‘on demand’ at a far more affordable price to the end consumer. With the added dynamic of ‘mobile’ becoming such a pervasive technology, this is providing the fuel driving the establishment of greater numbers of virtual teams. We now live in an increasingly “connected world†and with the blurring of work and leisure time, for many, virtual teams have already or are becoming a natural extension of the workplace. Individuals are demanding personal flexibility in the management of their time and space and this is matched by organizations seeking flexibility to scale resources in meeting changing demand. Virtual teams may also be seen as a response to satisfying changing social and organizational aspirations. A range of factors are seen as contributing to the effectiveness of virtual teams and these include technology, trust, sharing of knowledge, empowerment and leadership. This study focuses on trust as a primary factor in achieving virtual team effectiveness, and assesses the significance of trust and the sharing of knowledge amongst team members. Trust determines how people work together, listen to one another, and build effective relationships. When people believe that they are working for trustworthy organizations, they are willing to invest their time and talents in making a difference in an organization. People who feel more connected will invest more of themselves in their work. High trust levels lead to a greater sense of self responsibility, greater interpersonal insight, and more collective action toward achieving common goals. However, with a lack of face-to-face contact, trust based on performance substitutes for trust based on social interaction. Trust is a cornerstone to achieving virtual team effectiveness and from an organizational perspective this highlights the need for regular communication with team members to reinforce the culture and values of the organization. In the age of the knowledge economy, knowledge is seen as a critical resource for competitive advantage. The willingness of team members to share knowledge with others on the team can be attributed to the strength of the trust relationship and this further enhances virtual team effectiveness. The challenges for organizations are to understand what level of trust exists across the team, how this impacts on team effectiveness and to be able to apply interventions when seeking to increase team effectiveness. Active and regular communications programmes, internal marketing campaigns and short surveys are approaches for developing and enhancing the trust relationship. Organizations that are unwilling or unable to use virtual teams may find themselves losing out in an increasingly competitive and rapidly changing global economic and social environment. The technology and communication advances are clear, yet enabling effective participation and team collaboration is a more complex problem.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas, Ted, 2014. "The Influence of Trust and Knowledge Sharing on Virtual Team Effectiveness," MBA Research Papers 4562, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:vuw:vuwmba:4562

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    Virtual team effectiveness; Knowledge sharing; Trust;
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