טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
Ph.D Thesis
Ph.D StudentElla Glikson
SubjectTeam Communication Behaviors, Their Antecedents and Outcomes
in Globally Distributed Multicultural Teams
DepartmentDepartment of Industrial Engineering and Management
Supervisor Professor Emeritus Erez Miriam
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


Abstract

Culturally diverse and globally dispersed virtual teams (CDVTs) face the challenge of building a team climate of psychological safety, to enable team members to work together efficiently. Prior research showed that psychological safety is the precursor of team members’ effective communication. However, little is known regarding the antecedents of psychological safety. The goal of the present research is to study the antecedents to the emergence of a psychological safety and, to examine it in CDVTs, where team members’ cultural dissimilarity constraints the psychological safety development.

Study 1 follows the Social Identity theory, and examines the effect of team members’ global identity on psychological safety. Global identity conveys the sense of belongingness to the world wide community and enables culturally diverse team members to have a sense of inclusion, which facilitates the emergence of team psychological safety.

 Study 2 adds the mediating mechanism of information sharing between team members’ global identity and psychological safety. The sense of inclusion, conveyed by team global identity, enhances the information sharing, which further strengthens the psychological safety. Additionally, Study 2 examines the moderating role of shared information content, suggesting the necessity of socio-emotional content for enhancing psychological safety.

Study 3 extends the findings of Studies 1 and 2 by following Gersick’s Group Developmental theory and adjusting it to CDVTs. It examines the priming effect of the first kick-of message on the emergence of psychological safety. Looking at the content of the first message and the following team communication, the study proposes that the socio-emotional content, specifically self-disclosure, has a positive impact on establishing psychological safety.

Three studies are conducted based on three independent samples of MBA students, located at different business schools (USA, Europe, Asia, Middle East), who participated in an annual Technion-Multicultural-Team-Project. The participants were randomly assigned to CDVTs to work on a proposal for establishing a new business in a foreign country.

Using a longitudinal approach, the research examines CDVTs’ development, based on self-report surveys administrated at two time points, and on documentation of team interactions. Team interactions’ content is measured objectively, using LIWC software, and validated by qualitative analysis. Team performance is evaluated by independent judges.

Our findings confirm the research hypotheses and demonstrate that team members’ global identity facilitates team psychological safety, and consequently team performance. Information sharing mediates the effect of team members’ global identity on psychological safety, and more so under high, rather than low emotional content. Finally, self-disclosure in the kick-off message increases team psychological safety by facilitating self-disclosure of other team members; this impact is significant beyond team members’ global identity. Team psychological safety has a significant effect on performance in all three studies. 

This research makes several theoretical contributions: it highlights the importance of team members’ global identity to the establishment of CDVT’s psychological safety; demonstrates the importance of information sharing, and especially of the socio-emotional content to the formation of psychological safety; and extends Gersick’s Group Developmental theory to CDVTs, demonstrating the importance of the kick-off message to the emergence of psychological safety in CDVTs.