4.2 Developing trust in virtual teams
Trust is essential for effective team work. A team without trust is not going to be able to reach its full potential and achieve its goals effectively. What is meant by ‘trust’ here is the reliance you build up regarding how someone will act based on their character and ability. In order for creative thinking to take place in teams, people need to be able to take risks. This cannot take place if you do not trust other team members.
In a co-located team, trust can develop over time. Personal bonds develop from informal conversations about personal matters and time to socialise after work. However, in a virtual team there is less opportunity to develop the kind of relationships that the foundation of trust can be built on. Without trust, risks will not be taken, creativity of ideas will dry up and the strength of the team will be diminished.
A different type of trust is needed in temporary teams. Myerson et al. (1996) refer to this as ‘swift trust’. When targets and timescales don’t allow the luxury of developing relationships over time, members must move quickly to set goals and operate as if trust was in place.
However, it has been argued that this kind of trust may actually inhibit the growth of real trust between the trustor and trustee as it is not real trust, but rather a substitution of trust.