Does Trust Matter More in Virtual Teams? A Meta-Analysis of Trust and
Team Effectiveness Considering Virtuality and Documentation
University of Münster
TU Dortmund University
University of Münster
Team trust has often been discussed both as requirement and as challenge for team effectiveness,
particularly in virtual teams. However, primary studies on the relationship between trust and team
effectiveness have provided mixed findings. The current review summarizes existing studies on team
trust and team effectiveness based on meta-analytic methodology. In general, we assumed team trust
to facilitate coordination and cooperation in teams, and therefore to be positively related with team
effectiveness. Moreover, team virtuality and documentation of interactions were considered as
moderators of this relationship because they should affect perceived risks during teamwork. While
team virtuality should increase, documentation of interaction should decrease the relationship
between team trust and team effectiveness. Findings from 52 studies with 54 independent samples
(representing 12,615 individuals in 1,850 teams) confirmed our assumptions. In addition to the
positive overall relationship between team trust and team effectiveness criteria (⫽.33), the
relationship between team trust and team performance was stronger in virtual teams (⫽.33) as
compared to face-to-face teams (⫽.22), and weaker when team interactions were documented
(⫽.20) as compared to no such documentation (⫽.29). Thus, documenting team interactions
seems to be a viable complement to trust-building activities, particularly in virtual teams.
Keywords: trust, virtual teams, documentation, team effectiveness, meta-analysis
Virtual teams have developed from a somewhat “exotic” niche
phenomenon to an established work design over the last 10 –15 years
(e.g., Gilson, Maynard, Jones Young, Vartiainen, & Hakonen, 2015;
Hoch & Kozlowski, 2014). Today, most large companies rely on
virtual teams at least to some extent (e.g., Perry, 2008;Society for
Human Resource Management, 2012). One main challenge of virtual
teams seems to be the development and maintenance of trust (e.g.,
Duarte & Snyder, 2006;Li, 2007), leading to suggestions how trust
might be maintained under conditions of high virtuality. A critical
presupposition of such effortful trust building strategies is that team
trust is related to high team effectiveness. Interestingly, whereas trust
has been shown to be a significant predictor of organizational out-
comes for various referents of trust, such as direct supervisors or
organizations (Colquitt, Scott, & LePine, 2007;Dirks & Ferrin, 2002),
the impact of trust in working teams is less clear. Whereas some
studies have revealed a positive relationship between team trust and
team effectiveness (e.g., Davis, Schoorman, Mayer, & Tan, 2000;De
Jong & Elfring, 2010), others have found no relationship (e.g., Hertel,
Konradt, & Orlikowski, 2004) or even negative correlations (e.g.,
Dirks, 1999;Langfred, 2004).
The current study extends existing research in three central
ways: First, we provide one of the first meta-analyses on trust and
team effectiveness in working teams (see also De Jong, Dirks, &
Gillespie, in press).
Second, we extend qualitative summaries on
trust in virtual collaboration (e.g., Germain, 2011;Mitchell &
Zigurs, 2009) by investigating whether virtuality moderates the
In accordance with established conventions (e.g., Kozlowski & Ilgen,
2006;Mathieu, Maynard, Rapp, & Gilson, 2008), we use the terms team
and group interchangeably in this article.
This article was published Online First May 26, 2016.
Christina Breuer, Organisational & Business Psychology, University of
Münster; Joachim Hüffmeier, Social, Work and Organisational Psychol-
ogy, TU Dortmund University; Guido Hertel, Organisational & Business
Psychology, University of Münster.
This research was supported by the research training Group 1712/1,
funded by the German Research Foundation.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Christina
Breuer, Organisational & Business Psychology, University of Münster,
Geiststraße 24-26, 48151 Muenster, Germany, or Guido Hertel, Organisa-
tional & Business Psychology, University of Münster, Fliednerstraße 21,
48149 Münster, Germany. E-mail: email@example.com or
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Journal of Applied Psychology © 2016 American Psychological Association
2016, Vol. 101, No. 8, 1151–1177 0021-9010/16/$12.00 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/apl0000113