Friday, December 12, 2014

More Interpersonal Conflict in Virtual Teams

Stanford Professor Lindred Greer has conducted research on conflict in virtual teams.  She has found that virtual teams are more likely to see task-based disagreements become interpersonal in nature.  According to Greer, 

“They can’t see the context or the nuance or even the facial expressions of the person who is engaging in this task conflict.  When people lack information — when they are uncertain about why someone disagreed with them — they are much more likely to take it personally.  This means they are going to be more emotional and their response is going to be more aggressive and more likely to escalate the conflict than what would happen with face to face teams.” 

 Greer has some tips on how to improve the functioning of virtual teams. She advocates a face-to-face kickoff of a team project whenever possible.  She argues that it can help people understand where others are coming from, and it can help prevent a knee-jerk reaction to attribute negative motives to those with whom we disagree.  Here's a video with more information from Greer on this topic:

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