Managing global virtual teams

Johanna Saarinen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Advances in technology-enabled communication and a constant search for economic advantage have led global organizations to rely on virtual collaboration. Together with rapid changes in working life, virtuality has also altered the context for leadership and has had a significant impact on the work of managers. This study addresses managerial work in global virtual teams. In my study, I give voice to the managers themselves with the aim of enhancing our understanding of what the work of virtual managers is all about. The current scholarly literature on global virtual teams has examined virtual work mainly from the perspective of global teams. My study complements the extant literature by explicitly and uniquely focusing on managers' own experiences and their talk about making sense of their work. On the basis of an analysis of how the managers of a Finland-based multinational corporation talk about their work, I argue that virtuality alters the nature of cross-cultural managerial work. Managers of global virtual teams cannot achieve the quality of managerial work they seek; the reality of a hectic pace, multiple stakeholder demands, and virtual communication with people from different nationalities, cultures, and languages hinder achievement of their personal leadership goals. Virtual contexts limit and narrow the latitude of managers to do their job. Consequently, conflicting expectations create pressure on them and lead to feelings of inadequacy.In addition to an introductory essay, this thesis contains a series of four essays that elucidate different aspects of the work of global virtual team managers. The first essay explores the attempts of managers to exert influence in a virtual context. The second essay aims to understand the dynamics of trust and commitment in virtual teams and shows that relationships of trust and commitment are challenged in a virtual context. The third essay explores cross-cultural encounters and suggests that the reality of virtual work limits the opportunities of managers to communicate and take close personal interest in their employees and that these challenges lead managers to engage in task-oriented managerial activities. The fourth essay examines the emotions of managers in attempting to meet all the expectations they face and to cope with the various demands of a global virtual environment. They felt that they could not do enough and described emotions of inadequacy and guilt in their work. This research brings new insight to the understanding of the managerial work, management practices, and emotions of global virtual team managers. My study shows that virtuality changes the nature of cross-cultural management, to which conflicting expectations pose constant challenges. My findings call for new leadership competences such as virtual communication and recruitment skills for the managers of global virtual teams.
Translated title of the contributionManaging global virtual teams
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Tienari, Janne, Thesis Advisor
  • Piekkari, Rebecca, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-7012-4
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-7013-1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • global virtual teams
  • managerial work


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