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Teaming: Are two communication modes better than one?

Jennifer Parlamis (School of Management, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA)
Rebekah Dibble (School of Management, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA)

Team Performance Management

ISSN: 1352-7592

Article publication date: 2 September 2019

Issue publication date: 11 September 2019




Applying media synchronicity theory (MST) as a theoretical foundation, this paper aims to examine whether teams using multiple communication modes perform better on a complex intra-team task than those using a single mode.


The authors adopted a mixed-methods explanatory design. Data were collected from 44 teams directly following participation in the Everest Leadership and Team Simulation. Teams were assigned a specific mode of communication: virtual (text-chat only), face-to-face (FTF) or dual (FTF and chat).


No significant differences in team goals achieved were found when comparing dual modes to single modes, counter to predictions based on MST. Qualitative data indicated that FTF communication is dominant and might lead to “medium inertia” when multiple modes are available. FTF teams reported higher perceptions of team effectiveness than text-chat-only teams.

Research limitations/implications

This study was conducted on a small number of teams in an artificial environment; therefore, generalizability is limited. Future research should consider other measures of team performance and test teams in a virtual setting where distance, as well as time, are factors.

Practical implications

FTF communication tends to be dominant to a point where virtual options are ignored, suggesting that greater awareness around communication processes required for complex tasks, and ways to appropriate different media for conveyance or convergence, is key to team performance.


This study highlights the importance of determining processes by which teams shift between media to maximize conveyance and convergence processes. Additionally, distinguishing between objective performance and perceptions of performance highlight an additional challenge for teams that can be explored.



Parlamis, J. and Dibble, R. (2019), "Teaming: Are two communication modes better than one?", Team Performance Management, Vol. 25 No. 5/6, pp. 318-333.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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