Shared Communication Practices and Mental Models in the Virtual Work Environment

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Contribution to Book

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Exploring Virtuality within and Beyond Organizations: Social, Global and Local Dimensions


Niki Panteli & Mike Chiasson


Palgrave Macmillan

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Prior research underscores the importance of building and maintaining shared expectations in order for individual members of a team to coalesce and achieve successful team outcomes (Cohen and Bailey, 1997; Mignerey, Rubin and Gorden, 1995). Expectations are part of an individual's mental model of a situation and are developed over time through attaching meaning to behaviors. Shared expectations lower communication costs and determine rules of behavior in organizations (Forsyth, 1998). The impact of virtuality on this process has produced equivocal findings in the literature. The common assumption is that work is harder because members must communicate across boundaries of time and space (Espinosa et al., 2003; Jarvenpaa and Leidner, 1999; Kiesler and Cummings, 2002); however, some research suggests that a lack of shared work practices is a more significant impediment to successful performance outcomes in the virtual work environment (VWE) than the simple presence of various boundaries (Chudoba et al., 2005). In this chapter, we propose that shared expectations of ICT use, as represented in a team's communication media repertoire, are especially critical in the virtual environment where use of media is integral to accomplishing work activities. Maznevski and Chudoba (2000) found that shared understanding of temporal patterns of communication and rhythms of meetings differentiated a successful global virtual team from less successful teams. However, little research has addressed the practices of media use and development of shared expectations in the VWE.


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