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Reducing Bias in Virtual Teams


Do you support the functioning of virtual teams? Are you working within one? Are you comfortable in your role?


I’ve been working for many years in telecom organizations who have focused on enterprise communications systems. For the past several years the talk is about collaboration tools: video and audio technologies used to collaborate across geographical and national boundaries. It’s amazing to consider that we now can work effectively and harmoniously with people who reside indifferent time zones, and all nationalities and across vast oceans from us. It’s truly wonderful and would have been impossible to consider when I first started working thirty-something years ago in the industry. Anywhere outside of North America just wasn’t considered. It didn’t appear on the radar of marketing executives. This was the geographical bias of the time.


Zoom forward to the here and now and you’ll find a dynamic industry of communications providers across all lines of business, including the home where I had a weekend computer video chat with a friend. Albeit, she is helping me with the development of a distance course on establishing a mindfulness meditation practice at home. Still, I never would have dreamed of doing that with her when we met at graduate school in ’98. Technology has blurred the boundaries between work and play.


I’ve watched the technologies of collaboration develop from the inside out. The one thing that continues to confound me is why don’t they promote a greater depth of relationship? According to Miriam Webster, collaboration is: to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor; an international team of scientists collaborated on the study. In WWII, the term had negative adopted connotations as in “cooperate traitorously with an occupying enemy.”


The term, like these collaboration technologies, lack a sense or savvy of relationship know-how. What’s missing is an understanding of the depth of political, social, psychological or cultural aspects of relationship.


It’s lacking any sense of the depths in creating relationship. These collaboration tools are created without any possibility of nurturing consensus-building or acknowledging those attributes associated with relationship: building trust, a sense of shared history, common values, or other attributes that are connected to a larger social entity – one that is beyond the individual. What happens is the biases of the existing relationships become amplified and more deeply ingrained by the technologies.


What if the telecommunications technologies were used to challenge team member’s biases? What if we used them to know each other’s cultures in a more intimate way and, in so doing, chose new cultural assumptions which deepened our relationships?


Contact me to explore using your telecommunications collaboration technologies as tools promoting cohesion within your virtual teams margot@margothovey.com

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© 2019 by Margot Hovey, PhD