University of Oulu

Leading a team through challenges : resilience in virtual teams

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Author: Männistö, Johanna1; Väisänen, Nina1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.7 MB)
Pages: 84
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : J. Männistö; N. Väisänen, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-11-30
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Siklander, Pirkko
Reviewer: Järvenoja, Hanna
Siklander, Pirkko


As the use of virtual teams in organizations is expected to only grow in the future, along with the continuous challenges in today’s hectic and competitive business environment, the team’s ability to withstand and overcome tough situations, in other words team resilience, becomes a crucial part of every team’s success. This study was carried out as a qualitative case study and it aims to explore how different parts of resilience appear in the context of virtual teams from the leader’s perspective, as well as the actions that occur by the virtual team leader in situations that require team resilience.

The participants of this study were nine virtual team leaders who use communication technology to coordinate teamwork and to collaborate with team members in a team where some or all of members work remotely and cannot collaborate in real-time or face-to-face all the time. The data was collected with web-based online questionnaire and the data analysis was made by using a qualitative theory-oriented content analysis.

The results of this study identified the parts of resilience that occur in virtual teams. Especially diversity and nonverbal communication had a lot of variation within teams of this study, but every team compensates the lack of nonverbal communication with other communication methods. Besides communication, trust and flexibility seem to be resilience-enhancing factors for almost every team.

The resilient practices were investigated in relation to Alliger’s theory, and this study shows how communication is the most used tool in building virtual team resilience, and the usage of it succeed mostly in minimizing (before adversity) and mending (after adversity) phases. In ongoing adversity, communication reduces and causes stress for virtual teams. Besides communication, virtual teams use positive adaption and shared understanding to handle adversities, whereas cohesion and problem solving strategies were the least mentioned dimensions.

These results create an in-depth knowledge about a relatively new and unexplored topic. Instead of generalizing the findings, the aim is to objectively explore a smaller amount of virtual team leaders who gave insights about how virtual team resilience appears in their teams. By identifying the main enhancing factors related to virtual team resilience, the leader can improve these features and lead their team to success. The results are applicable for organization’s management who use communication technologies to collaborate with team members and who seek to enhance virtual team resilience, as well as for organizations aiming to develop interaction and leadership models or educators working with e-learning.

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Copyright information: © Johanna Männistö; Nina Väisänen, 2018. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.