Virtual groups that communicate and coordinate their activities using e-mail continue to increase as an organizational form. Prior research, however, provides limited insight into how individuals within these groups communicate. Studies that investigate small group processes have suggested that individual status differences affect the communication behaviors of group members. This paper examines one such status element, tenure (length of time affiliated with a group), and its influence on individual communication usage in the context of virtual groups. A content analysis of e-mail communication among members of the group during a three-month period was performed. Empirical measurement found differences in communication use patterns for established members versus newcomers in the group. Results suggest that, as in traditional groups, newcomers primarily use an information seeking mode in their communication and established members use an information providing mode. Along with this preference for a particular type of exchange behavior, differences were found in the content of information exchanges depending on whether information seeking or information providing was being used. Newcomers had higher levels of regulative exchanges than cognitive exchanges whereas established members had higher levels of cognitive exchanges than normative exchanges. Finally, individual performance was shown to be related to membership message activity.
Galvin, John, "Information Exchange in Virtual Work Groups: The Effects of Member Tenure on Use of E-Mail Messaging" (1999). AMCIS 1999 Proceedings. 247.