Academic journal article Journal of International Technology and Information Management

Managing Virtual Team Performance: An Exploratory Study of Social Loafing and Social Comparison

Academic journal article Journal of International Technology and Information Management

Managing Virtual Team Performance: An Exploratory Study of Social Loafing and Social Comparison

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Virtual teams and virtual teamwork are pervasive organization phenomenon nowadays (Cohen & Gibson, 2003; Powell, Piccoli, & Ives, 2004). Virtual teams have been used to perform different tasks such as software development, project management, and etc. (Chen, Romano, & Nunamaker, 2006). A team can be viewed as "a group of people who work towards a common goal", teamwork "is the process that a team employs (including both individual and group activities that team members engage in) to achieve that goal." (Chen & Sager, 2007) Some researchers regard a virtual team the same as a distributed team. Others define a virtual team as a team that relies heavily on computer-mediated communication (CMC) regardless of the geographical locations of the members. Moreover, some researchers define virtuality as a continuum rather than a point, and the level of virtuality can be determined by three dimensions: the degree of synchronization, the presence of nonverbal and para-verbal cues, and the extent of using CMC (Baltes, Dickson, Sherman, Bauer, & LaGanke, 2002; Kirkman & Mathieu, 2005; Jong, Schalk, & Curseu, 2008). In this paper, we use the term "virtual teamwork" to refer to teamwork that is conducted via CMC regardless of team members' geographical locations. As a result, virtual teamwork is an integral part of any teams, even for teams that are co-located.

Previous studies show that virtual teamwork conducted through electronic meetings can become more efficient and effective than traditional oral discussions (Aiken & Park, 2009). However, understanding how virtuality affects team performance is far from well-established.

Organizations often use trial-and-error to determine what managerial practices work best in virtual team environment (Oakley, 1999). In this study, we investigate how virtuality affects team productivity when teams are engaged in an ideation process. Ideation, also known as idea generation or brainstorming, is one of the fundamental mechanisms of decision making or problem-solving process (Briggs, Vreede, & Reinig, 2003) that involves coming to understand the problem, generating possible solutions, generating objective assessment criteria, and evaluating and selecting the best solution (Robbins & Judge, 2007).

Existing literature on teamwork and ideation indicates that anonymous input increases team performance. However, these studies were frequently conducted in a face-to-face (FtF) setting, and they only focused on two effects: evaluation apprehension and social loafing. When teams engage in ideation in an asynchronous virtual environment, there could be factors that impact the effect of anonymity, making it more or less effective than in FtF interactions. In this study, we investigate how the effects of social loafing and social comparison affect team performance when teams engage in anonymous and asynchronous electronic ideation. In the next section, we summarize previous studies of ideation in virtual team research, and explain the theoretical foundations, research hypotheses, and research questions. Then we describe the study design followed by the study results. Finally, we discuss the managerial implications, limitations, and future research.

RESEARCH BACKGROUND AND HYPOTHESES

Organizations are increasingly employing virtual teams as a new form of teamwork due to the need to "collaborate quickly and efficiently within and across organizational boundaries" (Oakley, 1999). Virtual teams potentially offer a major advantage over traditional teams for problem-solving. The organization can draw in people from a wider pool to build a team with diverse expertise, experiences, and backgrounds, and therefore a wider variety of perspectives. Such teams may be able to work in broader problem and solution space as they seek and implement solutions. In other words, virtual teams may have a higher possibility for better problem solving. …

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