Practicing Emotional Intelligence in Virtual Teams

TEXT | Anas Ashfaq

In the current era, particularly ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations have rapidly transformed to a great extent switching from conventional ways of working to networked corporations run through virtual teams owing to the increasing advancement of information and communication technologies (ICTs) (Jarvenpaa and Leidner 1999). However, these teams are marred by a number of challenges that the leaders of virtual teams encounter regarding team coordination and control (Ford et al., 2017). The challenges arise due to the reduced amount of face-to-face interactions among the team members contrary to that in traditional work teams. For this reason, these virtual teams are often found to exhibit low team effectiveness calling from the leaders to develop new skillsets for fostering healthy relationships with the team members (Jimenez et al., 2017). This new skill is emotional intelligence that has been highlighted by many researchers to be responsible for fostering team effectiveness (Thory, 2016; Nafukho et al., 2016).

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is delineated as “the ability to perceive accurately, appraise and express emotion; the ability to access and/or generate feelings when they facilitate thought; the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge; and the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth” (Mayer and Salovey, 1997, pp. 10).

Owing to the differences in the virtual and conventional teams (Martins et al., 2004), it is essential to recognize the way emotional intelligence competency can play a role in fostering team effectiveness in virtual team contexts. Pitts et al., (2012) have argued through their research that emotional intelligence leads to be a very important predicting element of team viability and open communication in the team is that one mechanism by means of which the emotional intelligence competency turns out to be a significant factor in positively influencing the viability of the virtual teams.

Furthermore, emotional intelligence serves to be an even more critical factor for determining the effectiveness of teams in virtual team settings in comparison to face-to-face teams. This is because the virtual team members tend to share lesser non-verbal and even verbal cues, as well as they have reduced social interactions, emotional expression, and open communication (Jarvenpaa and Leidner, 1999). Leadership is viewed as the key pillar to build effectiveness in virtual teams and workplaces (Gilson et al., 2015), particularly leaders with transformational leadership behaviors predict the effectiveness of the virtual teams (Huang et al., 2010). It is noteworthy here that leaders with high emotional intelligence are found to portray transformational leadership behaviors leading to effectiveness and high team performance in virtual teams (Barling et al., 2000).

  • Barling, J., Slater, F. and Kelloway, E.K. 2000, Transformational leadership and emotional intelligence: an exploratory study. The Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 21(3), pp.157-161.

  • Jarvenpaa, S.L. and Leidner, D.E., 1999. Communication and trust in global virtual teams. Organization Science, 10(6), pp.791-815.

  • Jimenez, A., Boehe, D.M., Taras, V. and Caprar, D.V., 2017. Working across boundaries: Current and future perspectives on global virtual teams. Journal of International Management, 23(4), pp.341-349.

  • Mayer, J.D. and Salovey, P., 1997. What is emotional intelligence. Emotional development and emotional intelligence: Educational implications, 3, p.31.

  • Nafukho, F.M., Muyia, M.H., Farnia, F., Kacirek, K. and Lynham, S.A., 2016. Developing emotional intelligence skills among practicing leaders: reality or Myth?. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 29(1), pp.71-87.

  • Pitts, V.E., Wright, N.A. and Harkabus, L.C., 2012, Communication in virtual teams: the role of emotional intelligence. Journal of Organizational Psychology, 12(3/4), pp.21-3.

  • Thory, K., 2016. Developing meaningfulness at work through emotional intelligence training. International Journal of Training and Development, 20(1), pp.58-77.

Related articles