Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 23 Number 3 2006 pp. 237-274

Conflict and Performance in Global Virtual Teams

Kankanhalli, Atreyi, Tan, Bernard C Y, and Kwok-Kee, Wei

ABSTRACT: Increasing globalization and advances in communication technology have fuelled the emergence of global virtual teams (GVTs). There is much potential for conflict in GVTs as members work across cultural, geographical, and time boundaries. This study examines the antecedents of GVT conflict and the circumstances under which conflict affects team performance. An in-depth study of GVT conflict episodes was carried out using interviews, observations, communication logs, and documents. Based on findings from the teams under study interpreted in the light of prior literature, propositions are developed about the antecedents and effects of GVT conflict as stated. Within GVTs, cultural diversity is likely to contribute to both task and relationship conflict while functional diversity may result in task conflict. Large volumes of electronic communication and lack of immediacy of feedback in asynchronous media can contribute to task conflict. Moreover, the relationship between task conflict and team performance is likely to be contingent upon task complexity and conflict resolution approach. The influence of relationship conflict on performance may depend on task interdependence and conflict resolution approach. The conflict resolution approach may in turn be determined by the nature of conflict attribution. These propositions have been synthesized into a model to guide future empirical research and GVT practice.

Key words and phrases: communication technologies, conflict resolution, conflict types, diversity, global virtual teams, task characteristics, team conflict, team performance