The Problems of Team Building in Global Companies



Communication, trust and leadership problems manifest in globalcompanies. Team building in global companies implies that individualsfrom different cultures work together on the similar projects.Cross-cultural communication challenges emerge during team buildingin global companies, because team members do not share a similarlanguage, and behavior patterns. Globalization has made it possiblefor teams to work from diverse geographic regions. It gives rise tothe formation of virtual teams that use technology aidedcommunication to exchange ideas. Due to the lack of face-to-facecontact apparent in non-virtual teams, virtual team leaders face thechallenging task of having to diversify their leadership to meetdifferent culture needs. Trust issues emerge since it is difficult totrust people one is unfamiliar with, worse off people that do notmeet face-to-face. This paper evaluates the above problems of teambuilding in global companies.

As companies’ progress to diversify and different types oforganizing surface, team building in global companies is fastbecoming the norm. Global teams are gradually being used to deal withthe increasingly competitive, culturally diverse and multifacetedbusiness world. Global teams refer to groups of individuals fromdiverse nationalities working jointly on a similar project. Globalization has tremendously altered the business world. As aresult, markets have become international, advent types ofcompetition have arisen, and new types of collaboration have occurredpast boundaries. With advances in technology, global virtual teams,which converse electronically, have become a major organizationalinnovation. Team members complete projects over temporal and spatiallimits, frequently without one-on-one communication. Employees ininternationally distributed teams follow the similar projectobjectives, despite working from different regions. Unquestionably,it is difficult to manage team building in global companies due tothe associated problems of communication, leadership and trust.

Cross-cultural problems/ communication

Cross-cultural disparities are apparent amid diverse cultures. Thedisparities influence communication amid persons from diversecultures (Najafbagy, 2009). Because there are numerous companies,which have to function in diverse global regions, employees areexposed to unique cultures that they ought to absorb. The outcome isthat many problems may arise due to differences in culture amidglobal teams, majorly affecting communication (Najafbagy, 2009).Culture and communication cannot be separated. When exposed to adifferent culture, intercultural communication becomes inevitable.Within the multicultural place of work, characteristic of runningbusinesses globally, cultural obstacles to communication proliferate(Najafbagy, 2009). Apart from the apparent hardship in comprehendingindividuals who speak a different language, there are differentaspects, testing individuals attempting to work as teams with othersof dissimilar backgrounds. Persons from unlike regions of the globehave a dissimilar frame of reference, and might depict emotions in adifferent manner and depict unique conducts (Najafbagy, 2009).

Language is multifaceted and communication amid personscommunicating in unlike languages is hard. Language acts as a mannerof viewing the globe, and even experienced translators may find ithard to put across multifarious emotions and notions, which mayresult in misunderstandings amid global teams (Minkov, 2011). It iscommon for persons speaking the similar language to havemisunderstandings. Thus, it becomes even harder for persons fromdissimilar culture backgrounds to understand each other. Mistaken andantagonistic stereotypes of individuals from other regions can be animpediment to communication amid global teams (Minkov, 2011).Stereotypes are presumptions people make concerning thecharacteristics of those of a different group. Behavior disparitiesamid workers of dissimilar cultures can result in misinterpretations.Each culture has principles on what is regarded proper conduct(Minkov, 2011). For instance, some cultures refer to direct eyecontact while communicating as rude, whereas to others refrainingfrom the same is termed discourteous.

Unlike non-virtual teams that work within close proximity, sameoffices and interact one-on-one, virtual teams depend on technologyto communicate due to separate proximity (Gera, 2013). The technologycomprises of exchanging emails, using telephones to talk andgroupware, which are applications facilitating group work. Virtualteams are intricate compared to non-virtual teams. Geographicallydissolved communication lacks physical closeness, regularity ofcontact and extensiveness and profundity of physical signals vianon-verbal conversation (Gera, 2013). Other problems entail slowresponses, lack of feelings, and visual as well as audio contact.Members of the global virtual teams construe communicated informationvia intrinsic cultural prejudices, which may result inmisunderstandings or misrepresentation.

Cross-cultural management theories best explains the problems globalteams face in team building. Management explains the conduct ofpersons in companies all over the globe and demonstrates toindividuals how to work in companies with workers from diversecultures. The relevance of cross-cultural management arises from thegrowing co-operation amid companies in diverse nations where problemsmight come up due to the diverse cultural backgrounds. Theoristsexplain the function cross-cultural disparities play in a team. Inglobal companies, managers often face cultural differences that canimpede with the triumphant completion of work assigned to teams.

High and Low, context culture theory by Edward T. Hallassists in enhancing comprehension on the influential impact ofculture on communication (Halverson &amp Tirmizi, 2008). A majoraspect in the theory is context. The theory is important inexplaining the problems that management may encounter during teambuilding in global companies. It highlights the disparities that exitin individuals from different cultures when forming interpersonalrelationships, communication and engaging (Halverson &amp Tirmizi,2008).

High-context Cultures – these involves people from Africa,South America, Middle East and Asia. Hall suggests that people withhigh-context are relational, communalist, spontaneous and reflective(Halverson &amp Tirmizi, 2008). It implies that persons from thecultures insist on interpersonal associations. Building trust is asignificant initial step prior to working together as a team. Thecultures are communalist because they opt for group accord andconsensus, instead of personal attainment. Persons from the culturesare less directed by reasoning than instinct. The choices of wordswhen communicating are not as relevant as context, which may involvethe tone used when speaking, gestures, facial expressions and bodyposture. High-context communication is formal.

Low-context Cultures – these involves people mainly fromWestern Europe and North Americans. They are rational, linear,distinctive and action-oriented. Persons from the cultures preferlogic, direct speaking and facts (Halverson &amp Tirmizi, 2008).When finding a solution to an issue, they line up the facts andaccess them in line. Decisions are founded on facts and less ofinstinct. When communicating, speakers are supposed to speakdirectly, concisely and be effective in informing what action shouldbe taken. To be completely comprehensible, they endeavor to employspecific phrases and expect the words are understood literally.Explicit agreements are arrived at when negotiating. This differsfrom persons from high-context cultures who rely minimally on thechoice of words when speaking. High-context speakers might even bedistrustful of agreements.

Based on Hall’s theory, it is apparent that individuals from highand low context cultures will differ on almost every aspect(Halverson &amp Tirmizi, 2008). When working as global teams,misunderstandings will definitely emerge. A team from a high-contextculture might require adapting when working on projects with those oflow-context cultures. However, adapting to another culture is not aneasy task considering that cultures are naturally nurtured. Teambuilding becomes a challenge for persons from the different cultures.Initially management will need to invest a lot of resources and timeon coaching employees on how to adapt to either culture. Despite thetraining, it is also important to note that some cultural aspects arehard to change, for instance sensitivity to issues and facialexpressions among others. It is difficult to ask individuals not toact sensitively, since it is a spontaneous happening.

Cultural dimensions theory by Geert Hofstede acts as astructure of communication amid cultures. The theorist categorizesculture into diverse dimensions. They are “individual collectivismlarge versus small power distance masculinity-femininityuncertainty avoidance and long-term versus short-term orientation(Hofstede, 1980).”

Large versus small power distance – large power refers tothe extreme to which the personnel agree that authority in a companyis disbursed unfairly. Small power is the idea where personnel agreeto equal power distribution (Hofstede, 1980). Strong versus weakuncertainty avoidance – strong uncertainty clarifies that thelevels to which personnel feel uncomfortable due to doubt results intheir backing for beliefs, which promise certainty. Weak uncertaintyrefers to levels personnel seem quite liberal of doubt and requireautonomy and lesser systems (Hofstede, 1980). Individualism versuscollectivism– individualism applies to loosely tied socialmodels, while the contrary applies to collectivism (Hofstede, 1980).Masculinity versus femininity – the framework of masculinityregards to the inclination towards achievement, heroism and materialtriumph while femininity prefers associations, nurture and care(Hofstede, 1980). The disparities in culture dimensions imply thatmanagers face a tough task in having to accommodate together personsfrom diverse countries into a team.

National culture differences model by Fons Trompenaars is adifferent theory, which explains communication challenges incross-cultural associations (Primecz, Romani &amp Sackmann, 2011).The theorist notes that due to difference in culture, individualsmake disparate choices. He suggests cultural dimensions explaininghow people react differently. The differences also make it impossiblefor persons not in the similar thinking relate as a team. Hence,communication becomes difficult especially when having to communicateby electronic devices. Face-to-face communication aids understandingunlike electronic communication where people rarely have time tounderstand the other individuals conduct, likes and dislikes, whichapplies to virtual teams (Primecz, Romani &amp Sackmann, 2011).


As companies expand operations globally, the figure of virtualinternational teams progresses to increase. Managers are accountablefor directing teams and procedures, which cover time zones, whereglobal teams have working techniques shaped by functional andbusiness cultures (Kayworth &amp Leidner, 2002). This questions theability of virtual global teams’ leaders to ensure effectiveperformance where it is difficult to call meetings, and walk to teammembers impromptu when experiencing team challenges. Each teamrequires a structured working space, clear roles, an apparent taskapproach and clear relations norms (Kayworth &amp Leidner, 2002). Innon-virtual team, face-to-face relation makes it possible tonegotiate the processes of team building between leaders and teams.Team members are capable of observing and reacting to the differentfacial expressions, as well as diverse non-verbal conduct. Contrary,virtual teams lack such opportunities. Leaders should ensure timelyresponse and reflection, and enthusiastically work on the team’sstrengths as they arise (Kayworth &amp Leidner, 2002).

Leadership methods depict the cultural conditioning, previousencounters and traits learned from working in a specific workenvironment. Many team leaders are capable of leading teams in anon-virtual team because they are accustomed to the same companyculture and environment (Cleland &amp Gareis, 2006). The problem isthat most of the leaders will apply the similar leadership techniquesthey are familiar with even when working with global teams. Conflictarises due to the dynamic nature of communicating virtually, and theinfluence of cultural disparities amid the team leader and members(Cleland &amp Gareis, 2006). For instance, when a manager is adaptedto directly supervise his team’s work and pass on skills throughworking closely with personnel, it is apparent that the same managerwill struggle when working with a virtual global team. The leaderconstantly feels unattached and incapable of holding global teamsresponsible for what they are doing (Cleland &amp Gareis, 2006).

Global team members have their different expectations on leadership.There are countries where leadership is considered hierarchicalteams take orders from their leaders and do not work withoutdirection (Dwayne et al, 2014). In other cases, team members worktogether with their leaders in completing global projects. Thisimplies that some team members may feel that rules are being imposedon them, depending on the leadership method applied. Other teamsmembers want to have their leaders tell them what to do. Managingsuch differences is intricate, considering teams are dispersed, andcommunication is electronic. To manage teams effectively from allcountries, company leaders are faced with the challenging task oflearning different cultures, managing to relate differently dependingon the team member’s country of origin (Dwayne et al, 2014). Thereare six differential dimensions amid team members and leaders. Theseare “independent and interdependent egalitarian and statusorientation risk and restraint orientation direct and indirectcommunication styles task or relationship orientation and short-termand long-term orientation (Dwayne et al, 2014).” Disparities alongthe dimensions can be a depiction of a nation, functional area,company and different cultures.

Managing virtual teams requires more than working with teams within asingle company. Once a company begins team building involvingpersonnel from all nations, it characteristically commences as acollection of persons (Cascio, 2000). The leader’s function fromthe beginning involves building up the people into a rational andproperly incorporated work unity, which avails the ability for theteam to manage itself. Such measures can be attained when the leaderscome up with a team orientation involving motivational aspects asenhancing a common objective, forming positive effect, as well asmolding perceptions (Cascio, 2000). A team orientation depicts theconnection, which binds members together and to the companies’mission. This process takes a lot of time. The effective completionof projects will entirely depend on how effective a leader is inincorporating team members. When compared to non-virtual teams, it isapparent that completing projects in global teams take longer, andare highly dependent on leadership (Cascio, 2000). The leader willnot just allocate roles, but will also work as the mediator amid thediverse cultures, some of which the leader may be unfamiliar.


Trust is crucial to the triumph of international company teamsbecause it endorses cooperation and reduces unproductivedisagreement. Every team member adds in an exceptional cognitive lensin the project (Bradley et al, 2002). If connected efficiently, theconsequential diversity might produce relevant synergies and make ageneral wisdom better to that of any person. Lack of shared trustcauses team members to shy away from exposing their actualviewpoints, or fear that when exposing beliefs they might not beheard (Bradley et al, 2002). In many manners, the lack of trust ispossible to alter a team’s diversity to a problem in place of anasset. Global teams are specifically susceptible to trust issues.Amid the numerous aspects, which validate the level of trust inpersons, three relevant ones are personal traits, communicationeminence and the wider institutional framework (Bradley et al, 2002).Averagely, the level of trust amid persons increases when they havealike similarities, talk often as well as function in the samecultural milieu, which inflicts stringent sanctions for acting in atreacherous way.

Individual’s sense of trust is formed through interactions. It isdifficult to propose trust to a company rather, it is built (Handy,1995). Teams from different nations brought together to execute thesimilar project lack established trust. Global virtual teams aredisadvantaged, as they do not work face-to-face (Handy, 1995). Inaddition, developing trust, specifically globally, is hampered bycross-culture communication problems. During the formation of globalteams, issues become apparent like how to distribute work amid sites,as well as dealing with organizational conflict (Handy, 1995).Frequently, employees suppose that their work is threatened, as aresult experiencing control loss over the success of operatinginternationally. Such perceptions make developing strongassociations, which enhance trust in teams difficult. Non-virtualteams are co-related, which makes informal building of relationshipspossible via day-to-day actions (Handy, 1995). Contrary, virtualteams have no time to create the relationships. It becomes a greaterproblem for teams whose working method is relationship and not taskoriented (Handy, 1995).

There are two particular types of trust. Cognitive trust, which isfounded on logical evaluation of actions, role of an individual’sintegrity and capability. Affective trust, which depends on socialknits created through a reciprocal association (Handy, 1995). Bothcognitive and affective trusts are difficult to institute in virtualteams. Cognitive trust is frequently developed with time, as membersof a team create success records of accomplishment in executingprojects (Handy, 1995). If the knowhow of these achievements fails tobe shared with global virtual teams fairly, cognitive trust developsslowly than in non-virtual teams. In several instances, cognitivetrust might essentially be impeded via half-truths or misapprehensionof facts. There might be a difference in working frameworks all overmany locations to the extreme that team members are not perceptive ofthe effect of situational, resourcing, technical and differentproblems, which their colleagues face when endeavoring to executetheir roles (Child, 2001).

Since team members live in different nations, they operate underdifferent time zones. Thus, it becomes apparent that conflicts willemerge due to schedules that conflict. Planning team meetings poseslogistical problems (Child, 2001). Although virtual teams are able torely on technology, which ensures they work in unison regardless ofgeographic distance, technology merely acts as a complement. It isnot possible for technology to replace the effect achieved whencommunicating one-on-one. Communicating directly to individualsfosters familiarity and ensures that trust develops (Child, 2001). Itis necessary to be familiar with someone prior to trusting theirability to deliver effectively on team projects.


Team building in global companies is an important measure for anycompany. It helps organizations extend operations to differentnations, increasing the chances of profitability. Team building isalso an effective measure in ensuring that personnel share andexchange ideas when working together on similar projects. The triumphof a group lies in its capability to diversify and attract clientsfrom all parts of the world. However, for worldwide success to berealized, global companies must traverse the challenges that emergewhen team building.

In spite of the enhancing insistence on teams self-managing, leadersplay a crucial function in global teams’ management (Leonard,2011). Effective leaders ought to manage the company, language andculture differences, which alienate members, develop communicationimpediments, interfere with the growth of trust and result in themisalignment of members’ objectives. A leader in a virtual teammust comprehend the skills needed by virtual leaders (Leonard, 2011).It is necessary to realize initially the disparities between leadingin non-virtual and virtual teams. When employed within the virtualteam framework, efficient virtual team leaders must depict a morediverse and intricate set of conducts. In managing virtual teams, theleader should come up with apparent objectives for the whole team,regardless of location (Leonard, 2011). Managing project objectivesis a step ahead in deciding what will work for the team and what willnot. Since a leader will cater for the needs of all personnel,objectives must be clear and considerate to the different cultures.This ensures that teams from all locations are sentient of what issupposed of them, or their roles in the company (Leonard, 2011).Virtual team leaders frequently should alter their leadershiptechniques to create trust and form associations amid team members.

Communication takes up most of the time utilized in projectmanagement. The chance to meet one-on-one is non-existent for virtualteam members. Frequently, projects get just the first meeting afterwhich communication is founded on technology. This implies companiesought to ensure their personnel are technologically perceptive.Culture has been highlighted as a major influencing factor indetermining the effectiveness of global teams (Meyer, 2013).Diversity in culture influences how personnel communicate. Since itis difficult to alter the culture of individuals, it would be moreappropriate for teams to learn the different cultures. Cross-culturecommunication mandates perception of culture disparities, as whatmight be regarded acceptable in one nation, could be offensive in adifferent country (Meyer, 2013). By using cross-culture theoriesdiscussed under cross-cultural/communication problems, it becomespossible to understand the dissimilar communication techniquesutilized in different nations. Managers can use the differences toinform and educate employees on what to expect when working in globalteams.

Cross culture, resolutions to global business operations areprogressively being perceived as a suitable and important techniquein improving communication and relations in and amid organizations(Meyer, 2013). Companies may consider employing the services ofcross-cultural consultation in helping get resolutions to theproblems of cultural communication (Meyer, 2013). The consultancieswork towards improving interpersonal communication. They provide theskill, experience and knowledge required in diagnosing culturalchallenges as they arise and provide solutions to teams on how towork together. To have a properly working team in a company,communication is crucial. Consultants will avail tools and techniquesapplicable in upholding personnel integration, minimizecross-cultural disagreements and construct team spirit (Meyer, 2013).This is achieved via highlighting disparities and focusing onstrengths to make sure they are positively employed. Consultants willalso make possible cross-cultural training. It refers to genericintroduction to cultures, nations and diverse spiritualities. Theobjective involves equipping the team members with knowhow on dealingwell with persons from diverse cultures, which avoids disagreements.

Since trust influences how employees work, best practices should beapplied towards building trust amid global teams. Leveraging swifttrust – during the formation of groups, individuals are open togiving each other opportunities to depict their skills (Child, 2001).The overriding feeling involves assuming that since they are workingtogether succeeding will enhance the team’s bond. In the initialstages of working together, individuals work in a positiveenvironment of swift trust. This applies especially when the group ispressured to perform thus, individuals have minimal alternative buttrust one another. Two manners of ensuring complete application ofswift trust involve managers guaranteeing the team has comprehensibleobjectives. Swift trust does not last long, yet it assists the teamin working together prior to the formation of a different kind oftrust forms.

Building interpersonal trust – while selecting a virtual team,managers suppose that individuals will majorly be interested in theeffectiveness of other team members (Child, 2001). However, this isnot true as people are interested in the personal traits of others.Team members will endeavor to determine if they share anysimilarities like hobbies. Such personal connections can be built byinitially endorsing team members to discuss their personal interests.This in turn builds interpersonal trust amid teams. A differentpractice involves communicating with predictability. Goodcommunications are determined by quantity and not quality (Child,2001). It is necessary to ensure that communication is predictable.For instance, when a member sends a message, they need to get instantresponse from other team members. Thus, do not consider they areworking alone on the projects.

Rotating power is also effective in creating trust. In non-virtualteams, single leaders direct members. In virtual teams, the kind ofcentral power system is ineffective. For teams to have high levels oftrust, power must be rotated depending on the project level (Child,2001). The individual holding power at different stages should be theone most knowledgeable during the project phase. For instance, whenworking on a project intended at the development of a marketingcampaign, market analysts may direct the first phases, while thelater phases are lead by creative experts.


Globalization has transformed the way businesses operate. Companiesare now global and depending on technological developments tofacilitate communication amid members. Virtual teams work on projectsfrom different nations, regions and in different time zones. Thisapparently raises challenges in communication, leadership andbuilding trust. Since members are from diverse cultural backgrounds,their conducts are shaped by the culture within their nation. It isintricate to modify the manner a person behaves and perceives things.In order for companies to succeed with global teams, they ought toeducate team members of the different cultures they will encounter.Leadership must be effective and all rounded, while trust should becontinuously developed.


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