Us vs Them in Virtual Collaboration



The damage of an Us vs Them mentality is visible in society and politics.  It can also show up on virtual teams for reasons that have little to do with what is in the news and everything to do with the structure of the team.

When virtual team members engage in an ‘us vs them’, they may not even realize they are in it.  But everyone else sees it: 

  • low levels of trust and cross-location support
  • quick to blame and little efforts towards win-win solutions
  • preference towards local colleagues in spite of clever ideas from distant colleagues.

Why does this happen? 
Geographic distance, cultural diversity and virtual working.

We think of our colleagues in other locations as more abstract and often use cultural stereotypes to define their behavior.  See this excerpt from the book Virtual Teams Across Cultures for more detail. Also, we do not implement virtual practices for working virtually to bridge the location.  For instance, relying on email to define conflict or a few meetings to build the relationship.  This means the virtual relationship is inadequate for the complexity of the relationship as Team A in this graph.

Supporting virtual collaboration across cultures is one of our specialties 

We create programs to help improve the virtual relationship by focusing on:



Through the programs, we strengthen the collaboration muscle so that virtual team members are
willing to reach out, share information and find solutions together.

If you would like more information about how we can help your team improve their virtual collaboration, contact me.


All virtual teams are not the same

Some teams require low levels of interdependence within the team and do not need intense interaction to succeed.  Other teams, however, may experience demanding clients, competitive markets and frequent new products and need to work closely as a high-performing team.  These virtual teams often need support to meet the challenges.