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Keywords:

  • distributed teams;
  • hybrid teams;
  • trust;
  • team effectiveness;
  • knowledge transfer;
  • task interdependence

Abstract

The sharing of knowledge within teams is critical to team functioning. However, working with team members who are in different locations (i.e. in virtual teams) may introduce communication challenges and reduce opportunities for rich interactions, potentially affecting knowledge sharing and its outcomes. Therefore, using questionnaire-based data, this study examined the potential effects of different aspects of virtuality on a knowledge-sharing model. Social exchange theory was used to develop a model relating trust to knowledge sharing and knowledge sharing to team effectiveness. The moderating effects of virtuality and task interdependence on these relationships were examined. A strong positive relationship was found between trust and knowledge sharing for all types of teams (local, hybrid and distributed), but the relationship was stronger when task interdependence was low, supporting the position that trust is more critical in weak structural situations. Knowledge sharing was positively associated with team effectiveness outcomes; however, this relationship was moderated by team imbalance and hybrid structures, such that the relationship between sharing and effectiveness was weaker. Organizations should therefore avoid creating unbalanced or hybrid virtual teams.