However you configure your virtual work teams you will always finish up with groups with more and groups with less control over the way the project is run, groups who get all of the messages and groups who get only some, large groups who can operate self sufficiently and small groups who can’t. In amongst all of these combinations of groups you will have some who operate at the centre of the operation and those on the margins. These margins can be geographic, temporal or technical, but whatever their form, they are always there and must be consciously managed and controlled to keep your project on track.
When personnel start to feel marginalised they will begin to behave in ways that are either contra to the best interests of the project or at least not directly aligned with the projects needs, usually this is not a conscious or malicious reaction, simply a survival instinct kicking in to help the personnel feeling marginalised to believe they have a purpose. These personnel may react in one of several ways, usually preceded by some form of plea to the project or line management to be allowed to be more engaged. They could try to do what they believe is the best for the project, this may be right or wrong when judged against the central view of the project goals but at least they would be trying, they could simply mark time, doing minor, less contributory tasks they know to be in the interests of the project but not necessariliy the absolute best use of their skills and time, or they could actively resist the central views of the project, through either leaving the project to seek more engaged roles elsewhere or in the worst case actively sabotaging the activities of the project through resisting efforts from the project’s management group to direct their and others efforts.
While it is far better to work to avoid marginalisation in your projects from the outset through actively engaging with all of the teams and groups that form part of the endeavour, even with the best of efforts from all concerned it is likely that any large project will have, at some time, some personnel who feel disenfranchised or marginalised from the collective effort. When this marginalisation happens or starts to become apparent it is, I believe, vitally important that the thoughts and feelings of those feeling excluded are taken very seriously. If they are being marginalised through the side effect of some other project strategy, change the strategy as much as possible to reincorporate the marginalised personnel back into the project, this could be things such as changing the timing or format of a regular meeting so that they are able to participate more fully or be more engaged with the discussion, it could also be to change some of the assigned tasks so that the larger groups on the project are forced to deal more inclusively with the marginalised party, whatever happens though, something must be done to include these disenfranchised personnel back into the job before the relationship fails completely and they go from feeling last out but wanting to participate to the point where they actively disengage from the project either mentally or physically.