Power, Influence Tactics, and Influence Processes in Virtual Teams
Current studies of power, influence tactics, and influence processes in virtual teams assume that these constructs operate in a similar manner as they do in the face-to-face (FtF) environment. However, the virtual context differs from the FtF environment on a variety of dimensions, such as the availability of status cues. The differences between these contexts may alter how power and influence tactics are expressed in virtual teams. This study examines how power, influence tactics, and influence processes are manifested in virtual teams and which influence tactics are most successful in this context. Twenty-three members of virtual teams were interviewed about their previous attempts to influence team members. The data were coded using a thematic approach. The main findings of the current study were: 1) There is a tendency to use more assertive influence tactics in virtual teams; 2) The success rate of influence tactics varies by the direction of the influence attempt, with lateral influence tactics having the lowest likelihood of success; 3) Specific status characteristics such as knowledge and skills are more relevant for members of virtual teams than diffuse status characteristics; and 4) There is both a relationship orientation and a task orientation in virtual teams. I also present a model for the influence process in virtual teams. First, actors must use technology to get their targets' attention. Second, actors should build relationships through getting to know one another and the establishing trust, although this is not a requisite step. Third, actors must choose which influence tactic to use. While many choose to adapt traditional tactics to work in the virtual environment, new influence tactics (e.g., ambiguity reduction techniques) have emerged. Communication technology preferences affect which technologies an actor uses to build relationships and enact influence tactics. The status of the actor and target also affect which influence tactic(s) an actor uses.Recommendations are offered for both low-status members of virtual teams as well as virtual team leaders. Members of virtual teams need to be more assertive in their influence attempts and also need to focus on building relationships with their team members in order to be successful influencers. Future research opportunities are also discussed. Given the growing prevalence of virtual teams, the results of this study are a valuable contribution to both practice and research.