The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Identification with Virtual Teams

Marko Hakonen

Doctoral dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to be presented with due permission of the Faculty of Information and Natural Sciences for public examination and debate in Auditorium TU1 at the Aalto University School of Science and Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 19th of March 2010 at 12 noon.

Overview in PDF format (ISBN 978-952-60-3027-2)   [196 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-952-60-3026-5)


Virtual teams, that is groups of people striving toward a common goal, dispersed across many locations, and communicating with each other predominantly via information and communication technology have become increasingly common forms of organizing work. Globalization, the need to be near customers and the rapid development of technology have enabled and driven this development. The number of studies on virtual teams is increasing but many phenomena are still understudied, especially in real-life settings.

In this dissertation I have chosen to investigate the dynamics of social identification with virtual teams. Identification has often been put forward as a major success factor for virtual teams because it has been claimed to provide a sense of belonging despite the relative lack of face-to-face interaction. In order to shed more light on identification in this organizational context I have concentrated on the concepts of perceived justice and interpersonal trust and theories that link identification with them. I have also studied many relevant structural variables which are typical in virtual teams.

I studied real-life virtual teams in all the four original articles of this dissertation. The data consisted of subsamples from two questionnaires; altogether 42 virtual teams and 302 team members were included. The cross-sectional data were analyzed quantitatively.

The findings gave strong support to the importance of perceived justice, especially perceived procedural justice in the development of shared virtual team identity. Moreover, identity was found to be a strong motivational force which mediated the effects of justice perceptions on outcome variables. Such structural factors as the lack of face-to-face interaction and geographical dispersion were found to create uncertainty within virtual teams and moderate the relationship between procedural justice and identification. The fewer face-to-face meetings there were and the higher the geographical dispersion, the stronger the uncertainty which, in turn, forced team members to increase their search of identity cues from procedural justice judgments. Finally, it was found that both strong identification and high levels of trust are needed at the same time to predict virtual team effectiveness.

This thesis consists of an overview and of the following 4 publications:

  1. Marko Hakonen and Satu Koivisto. 2008. Antecedents of identity in virtual teams. Nordic Organization Studies, volume 10, number 2, pages 54-73. © 2008 Fagbokforlaget. By permission.
  2. Marko Hakonen and Jukka Lipponen. 2007. Antecedents and consequences of identification with virtual teams: Structural characteristics and justice concerns. The Journal of e-Working, volume 1, number 2, pages 137-153. © 2007 by authors.
  3. Marko Hakonen and Jukka Lipponen. 2008. Procedural justice and identification with virtual teams: The moderating role of face-to-face meetings and geographical dispersion. Social Justice Research, volume 21, number 2, pages 164-178. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media. By permission.
  4. Marko Hakonen and Jukka Lipponen. 2009. It takes two to tango: The close interplay between trust and identification in predicting virtual team effectiveness. The Journal of e-Working, volume 3, number 1, pages 17-32. © 2009 by authors.

Keywords: virtual teams, social identification, perceived justice, trust

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© 2010 Aalto University School of Science and Technology

Last update 2011-05-26