Academic journal article International Journal of Business and Information

Deadbeats in Virtual Teams: How Gender, Conscientiousness, and Individualism/Collectivism Impact Performance

Academic journal article International Journal of Business and Information

Deadbeats in Virtual Teams: How Gender, Conscientiousness, and Individualism/Collectivism Impact Performance

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

One of the most nettlesome problems with any work group, and particularly student work groups, is what we call the "deadbeat" - the member who contributes little or nothing to the group effort. Because a deadbeat can depress the productivity and morale of a group, it is important for instructors to predict the emergence of deadbeats. In the current study, upper- and graduate-level business students were assigned randomly to work in virtual teams on three sequential tasks, allowing us to examine three levels of deadbeats - those who under-contributed on one, two, or all three tasks.

2. LITERATURE REVIEW

The use of work groups or teams has become widespread both in the workplace and in university business courses [Earley and Gibson, 2002]. One of the most visible and serious problems with any work group is the member who contributes little or nothing to the group [Piezon and Donaldson, 2005]. In this study, we took a look at deadbeat behavior and its influence in virtual work teams.

2.1. Virtual Teams

Virtual teams are geographically or organizationally dispersed groups of individuals who communicate via information communications technology in synchronous or asynchronous modes [Powell, Piccoli, and Ives, 2004]. Deadbeat behavior has been found to be more prevalent in virtual teams than in face-to-face teams [de Pillis and Furumo, 2007a; Jarvenpaa and Leidner, 1999], making it an increasingly important problem in the classroom and the workplace. Virtual teams, composed of individuals who are often geographically dispersed, come together and disband quickly, depending on the organization's needs [Jarvenpaa and Leidner, 1999]. Previous studies have identified the difficulty of communicating in virtual teams because of the lack of media richness [Watson-Manheim and Belanger, 2002]. Many forms of computer-mediated communication are more difficult because of the absence of nonverbal cues, such as body language, gestures, and voice tone and inflection.

2.2. Deadbeats

We define deadbeat behavior as not doing an equitable share of group work. Being a deadbeat encompasses aspects of both social loafing and free riding. Social loafing is the tendency for an individual to expend less effort working in a group compared with working alone [Aggarwal and O'Brien, 2008; Karau and Williams, 1993; Schippers, 2013]. When a noncontributing group member receives the same rewards as productive group members, that individual is free riding [Brooks and Ammons, 2003; Hall and Buzwell, 2013].

Not every deadbeat is a free rider (hoping to get a good grade for little effort) or a social loafer (more productive solo than in a group). Other factors may be in play. Because of the overlap among free riding, social loafing, and deadbeat behavior (all three manifest as not pulling one's weight), much of the existing research on social loafing and free riding is relevant to the present study. A group member who does not contribute to a group effort has a damaging effect on morale and productivity. The free rider problem is a major concern among students [Hall and Buzwell, 2013], but moderate levels of social loafing may not damage team performance because a team with high levels of conscientiousness and agreeableness may compensate for social loafing tendencies [Schippers, 2013]. A review of the literature shows possible predictors of deadbeat behavior, including gender, collectivism, and conscientiousness.

2.2.1. Gender

Past research has found a consistent relationship between male gender and non-contributing behavior in groups [de Pillis and Furumo, 2007a; Furumo, 2009; Kugihara, 1999; Parker, 2010; Takeda and Homberg, 2013]. Women have been found to enjoy participating in virtual teams more than men do [Berdahl and Craig, 1996; Lind, 1999; Savicki, Lingenfelter, and Kelley, 1996], although the relationship between enjoyment and participation is unclear.

Hypothesis 1: Male participants will be more likely to be deadbeats than female participants. …

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