top of page

Leading Global Virtual Teams

Image by on Freepik

The prevalence of GVTs has steadily increased over the last two decades (Gilson, et al., 2015, p. 1314). GVTs have been shown to be important organizational units charged with, among other things, implementation of global initiatives (Martins and Schilpzand, 2011, p. 2). However, employees on GVTs face unique challenges which can impact their well-being such as feelings of isolation brought on from a lack of social interaction (HRMID, 2023, p. 34). GVTs are defined as a work team “composed of individuals in two or more countries who communicate primarily using information and communication technologies” (Martins & Schilpzand, 2011, p. 1). In their extant review of the literature, Gilson, et. al. (2015) identified team member well-being as an opportunity for future research. Their research found that while team member well-being has been theorized as being important to performance, there is still limited research on the topic (p. 1330). Well-being refers to one’s subjective positive feeling about one’s life while workplace well-being indicates feelings of work satisfaction (Ashmawy, 2023, p. 2). This study drew upon the gaps in literature identified by Gilson, et. al. (2015) by examining the role of leadership on employee well-being and job satisfaction in GVTs.  


            This post is based upon a Rapid Evidence Assessment that followed the systematic review methodology to arrive at the following findings.

·  Communication: The importance of reliable technology platforms to facilitate communication emerged from the literature (Chaudhary, et. al., 2021, p. 1057; Collins, et. al., 2014, p. 27; Maynard, et. al., 2012, p. 355; Panteli, et. al., 2019, p. 13;). Collins, et. al. (2021) found that technical problems with computer-based communication platforms led to team member isolation and feeling unsatisfied while working on dispersed teams (p. 165). Included in the discussion around communication was the notion that face-to-face communication is particularly important to GVTs (Collins, et. al., 2021, p. 165). Collins (2021) found that face-to-face communication was overwhelmingly preferred by GVT members and was an important factor in GVT member well-being despite the inherent difficulties in providing face-to-face opportunities for globally dispersed teams (p.165).

·  Individual Characteristics with Positive Impact on Well-being: Individual characteristics that positively impact well-being included team members who value independence and autonomy (Makaela, et. al, 2019, pp. 260-261; Nurmi and Hinds, 2016, p. 636), have strong internal locus of control (Lee-Kelley, 2006, p. 242) will display positive feelings towards working on GVTs. In addition, Lui and Burn (2009), demonstrated that when members of a GVT cannot build strong relationships their performance and satisfaction will both decline (p. 7). Poulsen and Ipsen (2017) likewise found that establishing a strong sense of belonging was important to GVT member well-being (p. 40). Nurmi and Hinds (2016) demonstrated that global virtual work has benefits for knowledge workers by providing skill variety, organizational impact, and opportunities to set their work schedule (p. 635). The final area of individual characteristics that impact the well-being and satisfaction of members of GVTs is trust (Lui & Burn, 2009, p. 22; Makaela et. al., 2019, p. 263; Poulsen & Ipsen, 2017, p. 43). Specifically, Lui and Burn (2009) asserted that “trust has a positive impact on performance and satisfaction” (p. 27). A relationship based on trust is necessary for success in a globally dispersed team where employees have a large degree of autonomy and freedom (Poulsen & Ipsen, 2017, p. 43). 

·  Leader Skills That Improve Well-being of GVT Members: Evidence of the critical role of the team leader, supervisor, or manager plays in the well-being and job satisfaction of members of GVTs was likewise prevalent in the literature (Chaudhary, 2021, p. 1057; Collins et. al., 2014, p. 165; Lee-Kelley, 2006, p. 236; Makaela, et. al., 2019, p. 258; Panteli et. al., 2019, p. 8; Poulsen and Ipsen, 2017, p.43; Whitford & Moss, 2009, p. 819). Specifically, the literature pointed to a number of specific leader competencies that facilitate team well-being on globally dispersed teams. These competencies include being a high-level leader (Makaela, 2019, p. 263), high levels of emotional intelligence (Chaudhary, 2021, p. 1055), communication skills including listening skills (Chauhary, 2021, p. 1057; Poulsen & Ipsen, 2017, p. 41), being adept at technology (Chaudhary, 2021, p. 1057), skilled at engaging employees (Panteli, et. al. 2019, p. 13) and are transformational leaders- particularly those who score high in visionary leadership (Whitford and Moss, 2009, pp. 819-820). Delegating appropriately and empowering members of GVTs was also a significant competency for leaders (Poulsen & Ipsen, 2017, p. 41). Further, both empathy and emotional intelligence are shown to be critical (Choudhary, 2021, p. 19; Panteli, et. al., 2019, p. 9). 

·  Team Traits: Structuring the team and the role properly is ultimately important to the team members’ experiences and their well-being. Collins (2014) found that having a team leader was important for GVT as they take on an important decision-making role and can delegate tasks to team members (p. 27). Lee-Kelley (2006) also suggests that it is useful to include team members who have previously worked on successful GVTs (p. 237). Trust was a common theme in successful GVT structures as Poulsen and Ipsen (2017) found that trust and autonomy were interlinked in their influence on well-being and satisfaction (p. 43). This was reinforced by Romeike (2016) who found the “effect of social comparison on trust in team is substantial” (p. 302). In addition, roles that offer learning opportunities were shown to be positively associated with job satisfaction and work engagement (Nurmi, et. al., 2016, p. 648). GVT structure and the roles associated with GVTs will help enable high levels of well-being and job satisfaction.

Recommendations for Management

            Organizational leaders should look to form GVTs in a deliberate manner.  Ensuring that the GVT has a defined leader is important. It is likewise important that the right leader be selected to lead a GVT, specifically transformational leaders who possess emotional intelligence and score high in the visionary leadership scale are best suited to lead GVTs. Their ability to unite the team towards common goals and to articulate support and encouragement for team members results in high levels of wellbeing and job satisfaction. Selecting the right employees for GVT work is also an important consideration for leaders. Employees who have high internal locus of control, work well independently and are strong communicators and relationship builders will tend to display higher levels of job satisfaction and wellbeing when assigned to GVTs. Constructing teams with the proper leadership skills and team member characteristics should result in empowered GVTs with high levels of wellbeing and satisfaction. In addition, it is important that those teams receive engagement activities and encouragement during their time on the GVT and that face-to-face communications are facilitated between both the leader and the team members and the team members and one another.  



*Denotes references which were included in the quality appraisal process.

Ashmawy, I. K., (2023). Inclusive Leadership for Employee Workplace Well-Being in Public Organziations. Proceedings of the 19th European Conference on Management Leadership and Governance 2023, p.1-8.

*Chaudhary, P, Rohtagi, M., Singh, R. K., and Arora, S., (2021). Impact of leader’s e-competencies on employee’s wellbeing in virtual teams during COVID-19: The moderating role of emotional intelligence. Employee Relations, 44(5), 1048-1063. Doi: 10.1108/ER-06-2021-0236

*Collins, N., Chou, Y-M, and Warner, M., (2014). Member satisfaction, communication and role of leader in virtual self-managed teamwork: Case studies in Asia-Pacific region. Human Systems Management, 33(4), 155-170. Doi: 10.3233/HSM-140824

Gilson, L.L., Maynard, M.T., Jones Young, N.C., Vartiainen, M., and Hakonen, M., (2015). Virtual teams research: 10 years, 10 themes, and 10 opportunities. Journal of Management, 41 (5), 1313-1337. Doi: 10.1177/0149206314559946

HRMID (2023). Employee well-being in global virtual teams. Human Resource Management International Digest, 31(3), 34-36. Doi:10.1108/HRMID-02-2023-0037

*Lee-Kelley, L., (2006). Locus of control and attitudes to working in virtual teams. International Journal of Project Management, 24(3), 234-243. Doi:10.1016/j.ijproman.2006.01.003

*Liu, Y. C. and Burn, J.M., (2009). How do virtual teams work efficiently: A Social relationship view. International Journal of e-Collaboration, 5(4), 16-33. Doi:10.4018/jec.2009062602

*Mäkelä, L. Kangas, H. and Suutari, V., (2019). Satisfaction with an expatriate job: The role of physical and functional distance between expatriate and supervisor. Journal of Global Mobility, 7(3), 255-268. Doi: 10.1108/JGM-04-2019-0025

Martins, L. L., and Schilpzand, M. C. (2011). Global virtual teams: Key developments, research gaps, and future directions. In Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 30, 1–72. Emerald Group Publishing, Limited.

*Maynard, M. T., Mathieu, J. E., Rapp, T. L., and Gilson, L. L., (2012). Something(s) old and something(s) new: Modeling drivers of global virtual team effectiveness. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(3), 342-365. Doi: 10.1002/job.1772

*Nurmi, N. and Hinds, P. J., (2016). Job complexity and learning opportunities: A silver lining in the design of global virtual work. Journal of International Business Studies, 47(6), 631-654.

*Panteli, N., Yalabak, Z.Y.,and  Rapti, A. (2019). Fostering work engagement in geographically-dispersed and asynchronous virtual teams. Information Technology & People, 32(1), 2-17. Doi: 10.1108/ITP-04-2017-0133.

*Poulsen, S. and Ipsen, C. (2017). In times of change: How distance managers can ensure employees’ wellbeing and organizational performance. Safety Science, 100, 37-45. Doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2017.05.002

*Romeike, P. D., Nienaber, A-M, and Schewe, G., (2016). How differences in perceptions of own and team performance impact trust and job satisfaction in virtual teams. Human Performance, 29(4), 291-309. Doi: 10.1080/08959285.2016.1165226

*Whitford, T. and Moss, S. A., (2009). Transformational leadership in distributed work groups: The moderating role of follower regulatory focus and goal orientation. Communication Research, 36(6), 810-837. Doi: 10.1177/0093650209346800.

13 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All

2 Kommentare

Well done, Julie. You know your stuff in this field, and I hope you continue with GVT for dissertation. Whatever you choose, good luck, Dr. Bob

Gefällt mir

19. März

Great read, Julie, and such an important topic! Won't be long before everyone is part of multiple VTs and/or GVTs.

Gefällt mir
bottom of page