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Culture Of Global Virtual Teams

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Discuss about the Compound Culture of Global Virtual Teams and Evaluates Cultural tensions.



Global Virtual Teams are virtual teams, which work together as a team, but virtually. These teams communicate through communication technology like emails, fax, video or audio conferences, and telephone calls (Gibbs, 2009). Scientific description of data from a global team of software is used to clarify the structure. Framing differences of culture in terms of non-static tensions offers a fruitful theoretical framework for fostering and understanding association across diverse time, culture and space.

This report outlines the analogy of culture, for understanding the compound culture of global virtual teams and evaluates cultural tensions identifying intercultural association in work arrangements virtually (Shachaf, 2008). The focus of this report is to analyse and identify the range of communication problems or issues, team members and managers working in Global Virtual Teams are presumably face, evaluate and discuss policies or strategies that the management can implement to deal with such issues.

This report covers the basic definition of Global Virtual Teams with proper introduction, characteristics that differentiate GVT with Face-to-Face Teams (F2F). The report further covers the three different problems arising for Global Virtual Teams such as communication issues, cultural diversity and geographical dispersion and the management strategies to reduce and stop these problems and issues.  

Global Virtual Teams

“Global Virtual Teams (GVTs) are groups that are (a) identified by their organizations and group members as being a team; (b) are responsible for making and implementing decisions important to the organization’s strategy; (c) use technology-supported communication more than face-to-face communication; and (d) work and live in different countries (Pinjani & Palvia, 2013, p. 1).”

According to Pinjani and Palvia (2013), Global Virtual Teams are virtual teams that are acknowledged by their team members and their organizations as being a particular team with same objectives or goals. These teams make and implement decisions, which are beneficial for the organization and organization’s strategy. Global Virtual Teams use technology supported communication such as emails, phone calls, video or audio conferences, fax. They generally do not work or communicate as face-to-face teams. These teams are culturally diversified, or in other words, they live and work in various different countries.


Characteristics of Gvt

Global Virtual Teams are much different from Face-to-Face Teams. The main characteristics of GVTs are as follows:

  1. a) Culturally Diversified: The main characteristic of GVT is that the members of these teams are from all over the world (Dorr & Kelly, 2011). These teams are culturally diversified, which means, the members of these teams work and live in various countries throughout the world.
  2. b) Virtual Teams: As the name suggests, Global Virtual Teams exist virtually. These teams generally do not come face-to-face (Hambley, O’Neill & Kline, 2007). This virtual nature helps them work easily without any kind of distance barrier.
  3. c) Communication: The third major characteristic of Global Virtual Teams is their communication system (Flammia, Cleary & Slattery, 2010). These teams communicate regularly via technology-supported communication such as emails, phone calls, fax, audio or video conferencing. GVTs communicate to collaborate with their team members.


Every coin has an opposite side, which means every good thing has a bad or faulty side. Similarly, one of the most important characteristics of Global Virtual Team is their unique cultural diversity. At the same time, this particular characteristic creates a havoc problem for GVTs (Shachaf, 2008). The three major problems for Global Virtual Teams are communication issues, cultural diversity and geographical dispersion. The description of the problems is as follows:

Major Problems

Communication Problem for Technology

Global Virtual Teams have a negative effect on intercultural communication (Daim et at. 2012). This intercultural communication has a significant positive effect or impact on decision-making. The major problem for cultural diversity is the communication problem, or in other words, the language problem (Klitmoller, Schneider & Jonsen, 2015). Effective and improvised technologies for intercultural communication included fax, teleconferencing, email, with the combination of team rooms and e-meetings. Communication media is selected by the influence of cultural diversity.

Cultural Diversity         

Cultural diversity is a challenge for such teams. Modern organizations or companies deal many significant or remarkable challenges and threats because of tempestuous and stormy environments with an extreme competitive and conflicting global economy(Klitmoller & Lauring, 2013). Through the diversification in culture and wide range of ideas from members all over the world, new ideas and extremely beneficial suggestions come out, which are exceptionally favorable and advantageous for the organization’s growth and development (Cagiltay, Bichelmeyer & Akilli, 2015). In spite of having huge advantage, cultural diversification sometimes turns out to be a problem for Global Virtual Teams.

Geographical Dispersion

A particular virtual team, working for the same project in different geographical locations is known as a geographical dispersed team. Geographical dispersion is a common problem in any virtual team. The main problem for geographical dispersion is the difference in time zones (Thomas, Bostrom & Gouge, 2007). Different countries have time difference, which creates a major problem in communication. Another problem in geographical dispersion is the attitude towards work.

Reasons for the Problems

Communication Problem for Technology

The main reason for the problem of communication is language or linguistic problem. When a team member of Global Virtual Team is from France, and the other team member is from Australia, there is a high chance that there will be a language or communication problem between those two team members. It may so happen that the member from France does not know English and can only communicate in French. Similarly, the member from Australia does not know French and can only communicate in English. This can lead to a major conflict in those two members, thus affecting the whole Global Virtual Team (Klitmoller & Lauring, 2013). The next reason for problem in cultural diversity is the lack of non-verbal communication. This is an extremely common problem in virtual teams. These types of teams generally do not meet face-to-face; so there is no chance of non-verbal communication or body language. Non-verbal communication is an important type of communication for any team, as sometimes team members are unable to convey their words to their fellow team members due to language problem (Lockwood, 2015).


Cultural Diversity

An important reason for problem of cultural diversity is the diversification of different cultures in a particular team. Different countries have different cultures. This is a major reason for the problem for cultural diversity in any virtual teams (Kayworth & Leidner, 2002). The diversification of cultures of two different employees often clash between each other, which further disturbs the whole team. Another reason for problem in cultural diversity is the difference in professional etiquettes. Different cultures have different etiquettes, values, attitudes and behaviors in their workplaces. While these are beneficial and enriching in a cultural dispersed professional environment, such etiquettes can even cause ill feelings or misunderstandings between other team members. An example of such etiquette is a member does not feel appropriate or correct to leave his work place before his manager or boss leaves; at the same time, another member may be used to an eight-hours working schedule. The first member might find the second member rude, which may create a conflict between them. Difference in working styles is another important reason for problems in cultural diversity (Au & Marks, 2012). Different countries and work places have different working styles, which may seem to be wrong and inappropriate for other team members. . The next major reason for conflict in cultural diversity is the attitude towards time. It has been observed that there are two types of cultures in any team. They are monochromic and polychromic culture. Individuals, who belong to polychromic culture, have the tendency to arrive late in meetings and conferences. However, individuals, belonging to monochromic culture, have the tendency to arrive on time in conferences and meetings. This creates a major problem in any team.

Geographical Dispersion

The world in divided into several time zones. Each country has a different time zone from another country. It sometimes occurs that a team member is trying to communicate with another team member; but the working hour is finished for the day for that member, so he is unable to communicate with his team member. This creates a havoc conflict between those two team members. Body languages play a significant role in such cases. However, this is not possible for Global Virtual Teams as they do not meet or come across with other. Attitude and working styles towards work is sometimes different for various and different countries due to geographical dispersion. Working styles usually reflect compounding differences and cultural values and ethics. Another major reason for geographical dispersion problem is the instrumental and affective communication. Instrumental communication is the sender and goal oriented communication; whereas the affective communication is the receiver and process oriented communication (Thomas, Bostrom & Gouge, 2007). In a recent survey, it is observed that the American team members deduced some of the communication events between the Japanese to be not necessary because they were not instrumental communication. These Americans did not perceive these messages and information contained the ‘‘to do’’ component. This created misunderstanding and sometimes frustration by the American team members when the Japanese team members followed the managers on their entire organizational hierarchy for a specific and particular message. While the Japanese members emphasized on being process oriented and maintaining the relationships, the Americans felt that this particular act created conflict (Kayworth & Leidner, 2002). These are the common reasons for problems in geographical dispersion in GVTs.

Who says it is a Problem?

Communication breakdown is a major problem in GVT. Often employees cannot communicate in languages, which are unknown to them (Daim et al., 2012). This creates a huge conflict between the employees. According to Au & Marks (2012), different countries have different culture, which sometimes create problems within employees. This problem is more serious if it occurs within a virtual team. This type of team has members from all over the world, thus having a cultural diversity. According to Shachaf (2008), monochromic and polychromic culture is a problem in geographical dispersion. Another reason for problem in geographical dispersion is the difference in time zones.

Management STrategies

Solutions for the Problems

. Problems in global virtual teams, can be solved by certain management strategies (Mukherjee et al., 2012). These management strategies help to reduce problems or even sometimes remove the problems from the team and the existing team members. The management strategies that help to reduce the problems are easy to implement and can be utilized by any organization or company for their Global Virtual Teams. The solutions to the above-mentioned problems are as follows:

Communication Problem

GVTs often undergo communication or language problems in global virtual teams. These types of problems, even if they occur between two particular team members, can affect the whole team, which leads to the breakdown of team’s spirit and motivation towards its work and their goals are not achieved.  Another major problem for cultural diversity is language problem. This particular problem can be solved by a simple management strategy. Since cultural diversity enlarges and increments the confusion, ambiguity, conflict, and complexity of communication, this diversity sets higher challenges for the team members and leaders. Culturally diverse groups reveal the lower levels of cohesion. They also show the absence of shared mental models preventing the understanding amongst team members. The most genuine characteristics of miscommunication are translation problems, less reliability in communication, and slower speech. Linguistic or language problem can be solved with the help of an interpreter (Stawnicza & Kurbel, 2012). When a team member in from France and he does not know any other language except French, it can become a huge problem for other team members, who are from other parts of the world and they do not know French. Interpreters play a significant role in such cases. They translate the unknown language. Every organization should hire a translator for other common languages, so that it does not become a problem for communication for other team members. This translator is more important if the team is a Global Virtual Team, as GVT contains members from all over the world with different language backgrounds. Another important problem for cultural diversity in Global Virtual Team is the lack of non-verbal communication or body language. When a team member is unable to express or convey this words or ideas to his fellow team members due to language problem, body language or non-verbal communication plays a significant role in such cases (Nunamaker, Reining & Briggs, 2009). However, Global Virtual Teams are virtual teams; they do not meet generally, so they are unable to communicate with other non-verbally. The solution to this problem is organizing video conferences, so that one team member can see the body languages of other members.

Cultural diversity

Culture is a multidimensional and complex construct, which is notified on several levels such as organizational, regional, national and international. A huge range of several cultural factors influences each individual such as national, organizational and international. Commonly used definitions of cultural diversity include organizational, racial, national and professional amalgamation (Zander, Zettinig & Makela, 2013). Cultural diversity is defined as the amalgamation of various national cultures of team members; a team member’s national culture is considered that of his or her country of residence. The utilization or use of ICT or Information and Communication Technology, an intercultural workforce, and reforming or changing organizational models, which increase participation of workers have changed and altered the nature of MNC or Multi National Corporations (Vaidyanathan, Sabbaghi & Debrot, 2010). This utilization of ICT is an important strategy towards solving the problems in cultural diversity.

Geographical Dispersion

The major problem for geographical dispersion in GVT is the difference in time zones. The world has different and several time zones. When a team member is working in his company, it may so happen that the work time is finished for the day for another member. Communication thus becomes a huge problem in this case. The strategy or solution for this particular problem is using emails instead of video or audio conferences (Noll, Beecham & Richardson, 2010). Emails can be read even after office hours but video and audio conferences are done during office hours. Therefore, this problem can be solved with the help of emails or fax.

Reasons for the solution

Communication Problem

An interpreter will solve the problem of language in a GVT. He can make understand the employees, who are unable to communicate in a specific language. As soon as the employee will understand the language, he will be able to solve the communication issue with the rest of the teams, so an interpreter is extremely important for any organization (Cagiltay, Bichelmeyer & Akilli, 2015). Another solution to the communication problem is showing body language. Video conferences show the body language of the team members, which solves the problem of miscommunication of language. Non-verbal communication is another solution to the communication problem in GVT.

Cultural Diversity

The main solution to solve the culture diversity problem is the utilization of ICT. This technology helps to communicate with all the team members of a virtual team amongst each other through emails, fax (Zander, Zettinig & Makela, 2013). ICT reduces the cultural diversity in a global virtual team as it increases the intercultural participation in the team. The reason for this solution is that ICT even removes the language problem within the team members.

Geographical Dispersion

 The major problem of geographical dispersion is the difference in time zones. The strategy to solve this particular problem is to communicate through emails or fax. Another problem in geographical dispersion is the attitude towards time. It is seen that in almost virtual team, two types of members are present. They are of polychromic culture and monochromic culture. People, who belong to polychromic culture always, have the tendency to arrive late in meetings or conferences; whereas people, who belong to monochromic culture, have the tendency to arrive on time. This diversification creates a problem in the team. This can be solved with perfect managerial strategy. Strict laws should be involved for being late in meetings or conferences and discussions should be there to understand why polychromic members are always late (Gibbs, 2009). These are the probable solutions or managerial strategies to reduce or remove conflicts and problems in cultural diversity in Global Virtual Teams.


Who says it is a solution?

The attitude or the body language of a team member often creates a confusion in the minds of other team members. This body language or attitude is mainly seen in video conferences. According to Noll, Beecham & Richardson (2010), this problem can be solved by using emails, fax, phone calls and audio conferences. According to Zander, Zettinig & Makela (2013), ICT can be the solution to the problem of cultural diversity in GVTs. There are always two types of members in a team. They are of monochromic and polychromic culture. Monochromic people are always on time, whereas polychromic people are always late. According to Gibbs (2009), this problem can be solved by implementing strict laws for being late in meetings and conferences and with proper discussions.


Therefore, from the above discussion, it can be concluded that Global Virtual Teams or GVTs are virtual teams that work together for a specific organization to attain same and similar goals. The members of these teams are distributed or dispersed all over the world and they work virtually, which means they do not meet. GVTs have cultural diversity that helps them to explore new ideas and thus having a huge and major success. In spite of having such advantages, the cultural diversity often creates a problem due to the diversification of languages, difference in professional etiquettes, difference in time zones, attitude towards work and many more. However, all these problems in cultural diversity can be solved using proper managerial strategies



Au, Y., & Marks, A. (2012). “Virtual teams are literally and metaphorically invisible” Employee relations, 34(3). 271-287.

Cagiltay, K., Bichelmeyer, B., & Akilli, G. K. (2015). Working with multicultural virtual teams: critical factors for facilitation, satisfaction and success. Smart Learning Environments, 2(1), 1-16.

Daim, T. U., Ha, A., Reutiman, S., Hughes, B., Pathak, U., Bynum, W., & Bhatla, A. (2012).  Exploring the communication breakdown in global virtual teams.   International Journal of Project Management, 30(2), 199–212.

Dorr, Meena., & Kelly, Kip. (2011). Developing Real Skills for Virtual Teams. UNC Executive Development, 1-17.

Flammia, M., Cleary, Y., & Slattery, D. M. (2010). Leadership roles, socioemotional communication strategies, and technology use of Irish and US students in virtual teams. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 53(2), 89-101.

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Kayworth, T. R., & Leidner, D. E. (2002). Leadership effectiveness in global virtual teams. Journal of management information systems, 18(3), 7-40.

Klitmoller, A., & Lauring, J. (2013). When global virtual teams share knowledge: Media richness, cultural difference and language commonality. Journal of World Business, 48(3), 398-406.

Klitmoller, A., Schneider, S. C., & Jonsen, K. (2015). Speaking of global virtual teams: language differences, social categorization and media choice. Personnel Review, 44(2), 270-285.

Lockwood, J. (2015). Virtual team management: what is causing communication breakdown?. Language and Intercultural Communication, 15(1), 125-140.

Mukherjee, D., Lahiri, S., Mukherjee, D., & Billing, T. K. (2012). Leading virtual teams: how do social, cognitive, and behavioral capabilities matter?. Management Decision, 50(2), 273-290.

Noll, J., Beecham, S., & Richardson, I. (2010). Global software development and collaboration: barriers and solutions. ACM inroads, 1(3), 66-78.

Nunamaker, J., Reining, B., & Briggs, R. (2009).  Principles for effective virtual teamwork.  Communications of the ACM, 52(4), 113-117.

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