Trust in teamwork acts as an invisible thread to hold people together. Without trust, a leader will fail to inspire a productive team culture. Yet, building trust is not an easy task, especially when it comes to virtual teamwork, mainly because it is a relatively new style of working. We are still exploring new forms of interaction and collaboration, learning about the problems that may rise and how to resolve them.
Some leaders believe that to have good virtual teamwork, they should create virtual workspaces similar to those that have been successful in face-to-face contexts. However, others believe that it is essential to acknowledge and embrace the differences between the two and develop new norms and work culture that cater to virtual teams’ unique requirements.
Trust in a Teamwork
Trust is a crucial component of effective teamwork. It allows team members to rely on one another, foster open communication, and work towards a shared goal.
First, we need to have a clear definition of trust in a team. In simple words, when you trust someone you are confident that they will follow through on their responsibilities.
“Trust is defined as a combination of ability, integrity, predictability and benevolence.” 2
When we talk about trust within a team we generally think of trust between team members. But is it actually that simple?
Building trust in a virtual team is not just about members trusting one another. Instead, it encompasses three critical dimensions: trust between members, trust between the leader and members, and trust in the Human-Computer Interface (HCI).
Picture. The dynamics of trust within a virtual team
1. Trust between Members
Building trust between members allows team members to rely on one another’s expertise, communicate openly and honestly, and foster a positive working relationship.
To build trust within a team, it is essential to meet certain basic needs of team members, including:
- Building their own identity within the team and recognizing the identity of their teammates.
- Ensuring clear communication to guarantee that everyone is on the same page despite potential language and cultural barriers.
- Knowing that every team member is committed to a shared goal and fulfilling their responsibilities.
- Having the opportunity to be involved in the decision-making process, discussions, and overall project progress.
(Chastain & Nathan-Roberts, 2016, and Haines, 2014)
However, meeting these basic member needs sometimes becomes challenging in virtual teamwork because of the restrictions for face-to-face or even synchronous virtual interactions.
How leaders can strengthen trust between team members:
- Organize an orientation meeting, as trust is needed to be developed in the early stages of team formation. Studies show that establishing trust early on can result in a successful long-term relationship within a multi-cultural team. 5
- Hold regular meet-ups in a less formal environment. It could help team members to build their identities within the team and ensure that they are on the same page.
- Set clear objectives and transparent workflow to help members get informed about each other’s performance.
- Use efficient collaboration tools to involve members in the discussions, decisions, and achievements.
- Providing regular feedback, and address issues or conflicts as they arise.
- Acknowledge team achievements to reinforce members trust within a team.
2. Members-Leader Trust
Trust between leaders and members is a two-way street. Members must have faith in the leader’s character, goals, and abilities to believe in their direction and accept their strategies. Likewise, leaders must trust the abilities and honesty of their members.
Leader Trusting Members
In virtual teamwork, leaders are more prone to get skeptical about members’ commitment due to the lack of direct visibility. 3 This may lead to micromanagement and surveillance, both of which would damage members’ trust in return.6 According to Brower et al. (2000), members’ perception of leaders’ trust in them will have a direct effect on their trust in leaders. Therefore, to build trust between leaders and members, the leader is the one who needs to take the first step.
Hence instead of micromanagement and surveillance, leader can use assessments to ensure members are on the right track and are competent enough for their responsibilities. But based on leader-member exchange (LMX) model of leadership, it would be even more effective if leaders improve their relationships with members to better understand the shortcomings.
Members Trusting Leaders
Members trusting the leader sets the tone for the team culture and creates an environment of psychological safety, where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.
Leaders’ trust can pave the way for members’ trust, but there is still a long way for a leader to go. To grab members’ trust, leaders should first articulate an inspiring vision and a clear goal. Other qualities in a leader that can win members trust are: honesty, showing technical competency, and confidence.7
3. Individuals Trusting HCI
In virtual teamwork, collaborations are mediated by technology. Hence, trust in the Human-Computer Interface (HCI) is becoming increasingly important in today’s remote work environment. Individuals need to trust the technology they are using to communicate and collaborate effectively.
What leaders should consider to improve HCI trust:
- Select tools that both have a user-friendly interface and meet all the needs of the team.
- Be aware of changes in technology and be up-to-date.
- Constantly examine the workflow and get regular feedbacks from members.
Pandos, the Perfect Tool for Building Teams’ Trust
Pandos is a all-in-one solution for organizations’ people Management. It is an excellent platform that can significantly enhance trust in virtual teamwork across all three dimensions – among members, between members and leaders, and between the team and computer interface. Let’s take a closer look at how some of Pandos’s features can promote trust in virtual teamwork:
Pandos’s OKR (Objectives and Key Results) management feature helps team members align their individual goals with the team’s overall objectives. This creates a shared sense of purpose, which can enhance trust among team members. With a clear understanding of everyone’s roles and responsibilities, team members can trust each other to complete their tasks and contribute towards achieving the team’s objectives. It also builds leaders’ trust as they can get aware of the work progress without micromanaging. It ensures leaders that members are on the right track and helps them spot it when a team needs an intervention.
Pandos’s task management feature enables team members to collaborate on tasks, assign deadlines, and track progress. Each task can also be aligned to a specific OKR, which creates a transparent work environment and lets members to be aware of each other’s progress. When everyone is accountable and responsible for their tasks, it helps to build trust and foster a sense of reliability.
Pandos’s peer assessment feature enables team members to provide feedback on each other’s work. This creates a culture of constructive criticism and mutual support, which can enhance trust among team members. By openly discussing strengths and weaknesses, team members can learn from each other and develop a sense of mutual respect and trust.
Besides basic information, including members picture, skills, and availability, personal profiles specify members character type using a well-known personality assessment. Moreover, a gamified system of rewarding enables members to earn badges on their profiles through peer assessments and their performance. It helps members easily build their identity and recognize others’, which is one of the main factors in building trust in a team.
In addition to these features, Pandos also provides a secure and user-friendly interface, ensuring that team members can trust the platform and the technology behind it. With its comprehensive features and its capability to be seamlessly integrated with other LMS Systems like MS Teams, Pandos enables teams to collaborate efficiently, transparently, and confidently. Overall, Pandos is a platform that can significantly enhance trust in virtual teamwork across all three dimensions, creating a more productive and enjoyable working environment for everyone involved.
- Brower, H. H., Schoorman F. D., Tan H. H. (2000). A model of relational leadership: The integration of trust and leader–member exchange. The Leadership Quarterly, 11(2), 227-250. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1048-9843(00)00040-0
- Chastain, J. W., Nathan-Roberts, D. (2016) Recommendations for Virtual Teamwork Based on Human Factors Research. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 2016 Annual Meeting.
- Ferrell, J. & Kline, K. (2018)Facilitating Trust and Communication in Virtual Teams. The Free Library. https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Facilitating Trust and Communication in Virtual Teams.-a0535943007
- Haines, R. (2014) .Group development in virtual teams: An experimental reexamination. Computers in Human Behavior, 39, 213–222.
- Lui, Y. (2011). Trust Development in Distributed Multi-Cultural Teams: Agent-Based Modeling and Simulation. In P. Vink & J. Kantola (Eds.), Advances in occupational, social, and organizational ergonomics (pp. 31-40).
- McParland, C., Connolly, R. (2020). Dataveillance in the Workplace: Managing the Impact of Innovation. Business Systems Research, 11(1), 106-124.
- Northouse, P. G. (2020). Introduction to leadership: concepts and practice (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.