E. Verreault

Bishop's University (CANADA)
As technology continues to bridge physical distances in an increasingly globalized world, more and more organizations are turning to multicultural global virtual teams (MGVTs). Indeed, MGVTs promise the flexibility, responsiveness, cost efficiency and improved resource utilization necessary to meet the ever-changing task requirements of today’s dynamic global business as well as those of not-for-profit environments such as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Given their increasing importance in today’s work environment, there is an increasing need for further education in MGVT management.

MGVTs are very novel. Not only are such teams global in scope, they are also culturally diverse by design. Furthermore, given the fact that their members are physically dispersed, these teams often have no choice but to interact through virtual means of communication.

This article will focus on the role of trust within MGVTs. Trust is what allows people to take part in risky activities to which they have little controlling or monitoring ability and where one may be disappointed by the doings of others (Mockaitis et al, 2009). One can therefore suggest that trust is even more important in a virtual setting.

Instead of looking at how trust is created in MGVTs, this article will address the following questions: how is trust imported into an MGVT and how is it maintained through virtual means of communication?

Indeed, swift trust theory suggests that trust is not built in MGVTs, it is rather imported into MGVTs. For temporary teams whose existence is built on a common task with a finite life span (such as MGVTs), the tight deadlines under which they operate restricts time for relationship building. In such situations, team members import expectations of trust from other, more familiar settings. Team members make use of category-driven information processing from stereotypical impressions of other team members. Because swift trust is initially based on the broad categorical social structures, consistent role behaviour is key in maintaining trust in the initial stages (Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999).

Although some authors have suggested that trust needs face-to-face interaction, a significant amount of literature seems to indicate the contrary. Trust can indeed be maintained in a virtual environment provided that MGVT members successfully perform on the three pillars of trust, namely on performance and competence, integrity, and concern for the well-being of others (Duarte & Snyder, 1998).

Given the temporary nature of MGVTs, the key behaviours that reinforce those pillars of trust vary with time. As shown by the existing literature, communication behaviours and member actions that facilitate trust early in a group’s life differ from those that help maintain trust later in a group’s life.

Accordingly, this article proposes a model for facilitating and maintaining trust within MGVTs over time based on the assumptions related to swift trust theory and the stages of group development.

Ultimately, the goal is to educate current and future MGVT leaders such as international business managers and NGO project managers to facilitate international collaboration through the development and maintenance of trust via virtual means of communication.