Global Virtual Team Drama

Photo Credit: Geoff Pegler Women in Global Mobility

We have become accustomed to Global Virtual Team drama and are used to arguing in meetings to position ourselves. Sometimes, you want to win over the other person’s view. It’s about who is better than the other. On the surface. Have you ever considered jumping into an argument easily not because you want to move the team forward and “think further and outside the box” but because you like power? Have you considered that you are worried about losing power when you treat your team members with respect and listen to them instead of thinking that you know best of all?

My team tends to discuss many topics at length, as everyone has a different background and worldview. Sometimes, we also do not know better or have beliefs we have carried over generations of what is “true” and “real”.  If you want to become effective as a team, you need to invest in the relationship level of the team members. It would be best if you created the framework for a supportive atmosphere in which every team member feels valued and can share her view in a way that is appropriate to them.

You probably now wonder, “Ok, I know that, but it is easier said than done.” As often, you are hoping for the quick fix, the recipe, or the shortcut out of Global Virtual Team drama. There are no shortcuts in life. Someone will always suffer if you try the quick fixes, the formula, or the recipes that might work for others. You will, first of all, need to work on yourself.

A drama is a type of narrative writing meant to be performed in front of an audience. Dramas are most notably performed as plays in a theatre, though many have been recreated and adapted for film, TV, or radio.” Global Virtual Team Drama is to be expected as cultural values, understanding, and beliefs will potentially clash even in educated circles such as our Global People Club. The main reason for drama is usually ego.

However, there could also be a “drama triangle” (Karpman, 1969). When you identify the kind of drama going on, you might be able to solve it and get out of it.

Are you ready to become an inclusive leader who can set aside your ego and nurture a team?

Read these six steps to reducing Global Virtual Team Drama.

1) Confront Your Fears

That is the hardest part of self-development. Often, our ego is strong and demands that we nurture it daily. It is like the flesh-eating plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.” The ego needs fodder. We have built ways of showing ourselves that we are worthy. It could be the new certificate you must attain, the endorsements on LinkedIn, or the positive feedback you expect in your performance reviews and 360 evaluation. Your behavior is driven by optimizing your evaluation, turnover, and other Key Performance Indicators. Learn to be self-sufficient without depending on numbers that prove you are a superhero!

2) Identify Formal Roles and Responsibilities

While every team needs formal roles and responsibilities, most conflicts occur at the handover points. In a fully functioning and high-performing team, everyone also supports the other team members when they sense that the other team member is overloaded or when they feel that they have the capacity. The more dispersed and virtual the team works, the harder it is to see how much capacity everyone has. It is your job as the leader to identify the gaps and build a feedback loop where team members can openly communicate when they feel overloaded or do not have enough challenging work. You probably understand that every team member needs a healthy mix of challenges and routine tasks in order to be satisfied at work.

3) Unmask the Informal Roles

You will find informal roles in your team, too. In a flatter hierarchy, you might have an opinion leader who does not necessarily agree with you. You might find this team member challenging, but this team member could be your greatest ally and supporter if you understand how this person needs to be inspired. Maybe they need more encouragement, more brainstorming, or more structure. You need to learn to read your team members and their informal roles and adapt your style accordingly.

4) Find out the Areas of Support

My management and coaching experience taught me that every human has needs. It sometimes took me up to two years to drive a team to high performance and great collaboration. When you understand the learning steps the team member has to go through to get to the next level, you will also understand how you can lead this person to success. Instead of asking them to work on projects that are way out of their capabilities, you can give them small success experiences so they can grow in small steps and keep their self-confidence intact. I have seen many good team members in other teams who were crushed and did not believe in their competencies anymore because their manager was overconfident or micro-managing them. Also, please review our article “Twelve Exercises for Psychological Safety.”

5) Ensure Every Team Member has a Voice

You will have more introverted team members in any intercultural but monocultural team. They will not always speak up in meetings and voice their opinions. Others might just feel it is not worth discussing further and shut up. You can use various tools and methods to give your quieter team members a voice. It also helps to ask a neutral facilitator to support your annual kick-off meetings or other team-building exercises. You might not see how you hinder certain team members from voicing their opinions.

6) Understand Limiting Assumptions

When a team member is very engaged but not necessarily of the same view as you are, it could be a good point to consider. You might assume that the team member is less qualified or experienced than you are, so you might not take them seriously. You could also be biased against team members who behave like yourself or have similar preferences in working style. This is what we reveal in coaching sessions. In my experience, this process is easier when you work with me through this transition phase, as you might have cultural and other blindspots that hinder you from fast progress.


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