Issues of Communication, Power and Trust in Multicultural Virtual Teams

Presentation Description: Businesses today look for graduates with excellent social and intercultural competences to help cope with challenges of cultural diversity and geographical dispersion among workers. Hence, working in multicultural virtual teams has become particularly important and challenging. Virtual teams work across different time zones, national and organizational cultures, languages and functions. Although virtual teams have potential to save time and cut costs while combining available talent, they often fall short of expectations. This paper looks at factors either conducive or detrimental to virtual teamwork and concentrates on influences of culture, identity and language on communication, power and trust in virtual teams.
Developing the ability to co-operate successfully with people from diverse cultural and social backgrounds must be started before entering professional life, as it requires practice and progresses slowly. The authors present European and USA Business Administration students with an experiential multicultural virtual teams course that mirrors situations they will likely face in their professional career. Students work together on projects that allow them to experience phases of uncertainty, miscommunication, time pressure, different time zones, challenging technology and the like.
Qualitative and quantitative data obtained from university students from over 20 different countries participating working in multicultural virtual teams are presented.

Evelyne Glaser (PhD, Literature and teaching degree in English and French) is head of the Department of Business Languages and Intercultural Communication at Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria. She coordinates the department exchange programmes with 55 partner universities. Her teaching experience (languages and applied business languages) extends over 30 years and six countries.

Lawrence Gales is Associate Professor of Management and Academic Director for International Programs, University of Cincinnati, College of Business, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.  He received a Management Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.