Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PhD in Business


Department of Management

First Advisor

Marcus Stewart

Second Advisor

Jill Brown

Third Advisor

Stacie Furst-Holloway


Although the effects of ethical climate and trust on individual behavior have been investigated within organizations, understanding how this relationship unfolds within virtual teams has been largely overlooked. In response to this gap, I use social exchange theory to integrate research on ethical climate and trust to develop a model of individual virtual team member effort. Specifically, when virtual teams experience an event that disrupts existing work procedures and workflow, this can negatively affect levels of trust between teammates and jeopardize member contributions to the team. I argue that virtual team member perceptions of a caring (i.e., other-focused) ethical climate encourage social exchange and help sustain team-oriented effort subsequent to a disruption. Based on qualitative data from interviews with virtual team members and quantitative data from a study on undergraduate virtual teams, this model provides important insights into issues pertaining to team disruption in a context that is increasingly present in today's business settings. Further, the model offers theoretical insight into the roles of ethical climate and trust in the absence of face-to-face communication and provides practical alternative solutions for virtual team managers to optimize individual team member contributions.