The Challenges of Teamwork
Working on teams can normally prove very challenging, with all of the variations in
personalities, strengths, and weaknesses, most of these issues are raised face to face with
individuals, and can be resolved by finding a room to sit and talk them out. Working on
virtual teams is more challenging, since there are a lot of things missing from the person-to-
person contact, such as:
Lack of visual cues to understanding context. Many people write email and talk
on the telephone in a manner which is completely different than they would talk
in person; things that are taken as insults could actually be jokes, or things that
are taken as jokes could actually be insults.
Lack of a communication mesh. Generally, teams work well when cubicle to
cubicle talk’ occurs; when people wander around asking questions.
It’s difficult to
wander from place to place all the time when your team is scattered all over the
At the same time, virtual teams have some advantages. For instance, it’s easier to think
through your response when writing an email than when talking in a meeting, which is a
good and a bad thing. It’s harder to brainstorm when you aren’t willing to just throw out
ideas (people are often afraid of saying things that make them look stupid in email,
because they think about it before they send it). But it’s easier to have rational discussion
when everyone can (not that they always do) let things sit for some time rather than
replying in emotion.
Several things that came up in our discussion are that virtual teams are also like normal
teams in many ways, so many of the normal team rules apply.
Several links came up dealing with virtual teams when searching the Internet. While each
of these has valuable information and suggestions on making a virtual team work, only
one seemed to have strong content that was useful:
Rules for Virtual Teams
After some discussion, we came up with the suggested set of guidelines for working
within virtual teams.
1. Teams rely on the ability to ask questions and get answers freely. The team
should , therefore, foster an environment in which there are no dumb questions. .