Another aspect of professional responsibility involves balancing the interests of project stakeholders. Occasions for such optimization arise when a team member is confronted with a situation for which he or she must develop a fair resolution that satisfies competing needs and objectives of the stakeholders (PMI, 2000b, 2002). One of the side effects of a virtual team is that not all stakeholders are physically present during the daily conduct of the activities of the project but can exert influence over those activities at critical times. Project team members need to be skilled in conflict resolution techniques, negotiation skills, ways to generate alternatives, and methods to generate a fair resolution. It is essential for the project team member to build alliances within the stakeholder community and to foster collaborative relationships. However, this mission can be very challenging because often the list of stakeholders is long. Challenges in working with stakeholders tend to increase in the virtual environment because of differences in languages, time zones, cultures, regulations, business processes, and political climates.
Usually, virtual team members are selected for their area of expertise regardless of their geographic location and time zone. Thus, when a technical decision is necessary, the team member may make the decision based on specialized knowledge and understanding of the situation, but nonetheless without extensive consultation and debate with other team members. Therefore, physical location of team members is a major contributor to the decision-making process. On such a team, work in local areas would probably tend to be the principal responsibility of the team members in the same geographic area. These team members typically would be the point of contact with the stakeholders in the local area and therefore may make many decisions on their own without the benefit of immediate collaboration and consultation with other team members. Given the time zone differences and the urgency of the response, the team member who is available may have to make the decision. Thus, the same circumstances that prompted the formation of a virtual team will force a decision even if there is insufficient contact with people inside or outside the team in the local area.
It is exceptionally important to establish a participatory culture on the virtual team. Care must be taken to create an atmosphere in which the team member is expected to act as more than just an individual expert pursuing his or her own specific and independent tasks. An explicit recognition of the various mutual dependencies is needed, more so in the virtual environment. Each individual team member must build relationships with stakeholders associated with his or her tasks and, where appropriate, in his or her local geographic area. With the benefit of these relationships, the individual team member will be able to resolve emerging project conflicts more efficiently . Additionally, the team member will be able to promptly inform others on the team as to the existence of these conflicts in case these conflicts have an effect on other aspects of the project. Otherwise, areas of conflict that may have a significant impact on the project may remain hidden to some team members.