Language Proficiency and Media Richness in Global Virtual Teams: Impacts on Satisfaction, Inclusion, and Task Accomplishment

  • Virtual teams that use integrated communication platforms are ubiquitous in cross-border collaboration. This study explores the use of communication media and team outcomes—both social outcomes and task accomplishment—in multilingual virtual teams. Based on surveys from 96 virtual teams (with 578 team members), the research shows that the more time spent in rich communication channels, such as online conferences, increased inclusion and satisfaction, whereas the more time spent with written communication that is lower in richness increased the level of task accomplishment. Team members with lower language proficiency felt less included in all collaboration channels, whereas team members with higher language proficiency felt less satisfied with lean collaboration. In addition, limited language proficiency speakers were significantly less likely to view rich tools as helpful for their teams to reach a mutual decision. Our data support media richness theory in its original context for native and highly proficient English speakers. Our study extends the scope of the theory by applying it to the new context of team members with limited language proficiency. Management should implement a collaboration infrastructure consisting of communication platforms that integrate a variety of media to account for different tasks and different communication needs.

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Author:Carolin Fleischmann, Jolanta Aritz, Peter Cardon
Parent Title (English):ACM Transactions on Social Computing
Document Type:Article (peer reviewed)
Publication Year:2020
Tag:Virtual teams; language proficiency; media richness theory; task accomplishment; team outcomes
First Page:1
Last Page:18