Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Offshore-Onsite Subgroup Dynamics In Globally Distributed Teams

51 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2012  

Amar Gupta

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Elisa Mattarelli

University of Modena and Reggio Emilia

Date Written: April 29, 2012


Purpose: The increased use of distributed work arrangements across organizational and national borders calls for in-depth investigation of subgroup dynamics in globally distributed teams (GDTs). This paper focuses on the social dynamics that emerge across subgroups of onsite-offshore teams and affect the process of knowledge sharing.

Methodology/Approach: We conducted a qualitative study of 8 GDTs working around the clock. These GDTs were part of organizations involved in offshoring of knowledge intensive work.

Findings: Our evidence shows that the specific status cue of being onsite drives status differentials across subgroups; these differentials are reduced when the client is directly involved with the activities of the team. The negative effect of high status differentials on knowledge sharing is mitigated by the presence of straddlers, who assist in the transfer of codified knowledge. Conversely, when status differentials are low, straddlers hamper spontaneous direct learning between onsite members and offshore members.

Practical implications: Our work has practical implications for organizations that want to use GDTs to achieve a faster (and cheaper) development of products and services. Managers should carefully design the organizational structures of GDTs and consider upfront the trade offs related to client involvement in teamwork and the use of straddlers across sites.

Originality/value of paper: The paper contributes to the literature on subgroup dynamics, applying and extending the theory of status characteristics theory.

Keywords: globally distributed teams, offshoring, status differentials, knowledge sharing, straddlers

Suggested Citation

Gupta, Amar and Mattarelli, Elisa, Offshore-Onsite Subgroup Dynamics In Globally Distributed Teams (April 29, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Amar Gupta (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Building 32-256
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
617-253-0418 (Phone)

Elisa Mattarelli

University of Modena and Reggio Emilia ( email )

Via Amendola 2, Padiglione Morselli
Reggio Emilia, Reggio Emilia 42100
+39 0522 522275 (Phone)

Paper statistics

Abstract Views