Interpersonal Communication Competence in Virtual Teams (InViTe)

Project Leader: Professor Maarit Valo

Other Researchers:

Post-Doctoral Researcher Margarethe Olbertz-Siitonen, PhD
Doctoral Student Mitra Raappana, MA
Doctoral Student Tessa Horila, MA
Lecturer Malgorzata Lahti, PhD
University Lecturer Marko Siitonen, PhD
University Lecturer Tarja Valkonen, PhD
Doctoral Student Kaisa Laitinen, MA

Funding: Academy of Finland and the University of Jyväskylä 2011 - 2014, 2015 - e.g. The Finnish Work Environment Fund

Keywords: social interaction, interpersonal communication competence, team, virtual team, team outcomes, team effectiveness, small group, group communication, speech communication, computer-mediated communication, technologically mediated communication, working life

The research project focuses on interpersonal communication competence needed in virtual (technologically mediated and often dispersed) teams in working life. By means of instant messaging, email, webconferencing, audioconferencing and videoconferencing, for example, members of virtual teams communicate with one another in a distributed setting.

Today, technologically mediated work such as virtual teaming is an integral part of the operations of various organizations. The importance of communication competence has been acknowledged in face-to-face encounters in the workplace. However, very little is so far known about the kind of social and interpersonal competence that is required in technologically mediated collaboration.

The project is interested in the communicative activities of long-term, often long-distance virtual teams in work-related contexts of companies and public organizations as well as NGOs. We investigate team members’ interpersonal communication competence for outcomes of virtual teaming. The project is guided by the assumption that interpersonal communication competence is crucial in fostering effectiveness and productiveness of virtual teams. However, the features and dimensions of competence may not be the same as in face-to-face teams.

In order to gain understanding of the interrelations between interpersonal communication competence, teaming, and team outcomes, we have developed the following main research questions:

  • What kind of interpersonal communication is needed by team members when the interaction takes place via communication technology?
  • What are the meanings and interpretations of communication technology in teaming?
  • How do the members reach mutual understanding in virtual teams?
  • In what ways do leaders of virtual teams participate in team communication?
  • What is their communicative role in teaming?
  • What is it like to participate from various countries/cultures in virtual teamwork?
  • What are the intercultural/multicultural aspects in teaming?
  • What kind of interpersonal communication competence is expected from members and leaders of virtual teams?
  • What is the impact of interpersonal communication competence on virtual team outcomes?

The focus is also in the previous research on team outcomes: How have task-related and relational outcomes been studied, evaluated and measured in previous research of face-to-face contexts? How can the evaluation criteria be applied to virtual team outcomes? How do virtual teams challenge the theoretical basis of face-to-face group communication?

While the study is theoretically relevant to the communication discipline, it is also of high relevance to the working life. Organizations and workplaces need fresh knowledge on virtual teams and guidelines for their personnel development and for auditing their organizational communication.

Articles, Papers and Theses