THE PRICE OF COMPETITION
Are you competitive or cooperative? If you see your rival writhing in excruciating pain while sprinting towards the finish line at full speed, would you help them or continue running? Haven't you discovered the difference between running and being driven yet? Competition is a reflex within society. Even during the periods when the socialist bloc countries, which experienced the nirvana of homogenization, stood, they were in competition with the Western world. It is not necessary to be in a country governed by a capitalist philosophy for this reality to manifest. When you examine the definition of competition in the dictionary, you come across a description like "a competition to achieve better results among individuals or organizations doing the same job." However, the part we need to shed light on is undoubtedly the way this competition is conducted. Our competition with each other starts at a very young age, but I believe it would be more productive to start from the period when our minds are relatively more capable, from our school years. In some departments of certain universities, a system called "Bell Curve" is used to evaluate students' academic achievements. In this system, the average of the grades received by students taking the relevant course is calculated to obtain a certain score. Based on this average, the upper and lower limits of grades are determined. In other words, passing and failing grades for that course are evaluated based on the success rates of the students taking the course. As a result, the concept of success is determined based on the performance of individuals who are responsible for elucidating problems or situations. What interests us in this regard is how individuals perceive this environment that creates competition and what kind of behavior they develop. Imagine that you are taking a challenging statistics course. There are numerous urban legends circulating about the course instructor. On the first day of the course, your instructor mentioned that he would calculate your grades according to the bell curve. After a few weeks, you realized that only a few people could achieve the highest grade. One of your friends, who is studying in a different faculty and is taking the same course with you, approached you after class and expressed in plain words that they were struggling with certain topics, despite repeatedly going over them, and couldn't grasp the rest of the course due to these difficulties. Most likely, one part of you wants to help them due to the moral sensibilities you have accumulated until your age, while the other part wants to achieve a high grade, knowing that someone else achieving a higher grade would be a significant obstacle to fulfilling your desire. Which situation would be your reality? In other words, which path would you choose? You can think about it for a while now and make the most suitable decision with your conscious side, but we usually don't ponder extensively to make decisions in a normal process. If that were the case, we wouldn't be efficient beings cognitively and behaviorally. Our decisions are formed according to the schemas we have prepared in advance. As an element of the encompassing set that includes us, we are subtly influenced by the characteristics of that set. Research has revealed that the goals people produce or derive from recent experiences have a greater impact on their unconscious mechanisms. I would like to share a fascinating study about an important factor that influences your decision-making process. In a study conducted by Azim Shariff and Ara Norenzayan in 2007, they initially divided a group of participants into two. They asked the first group to generate different sentences using a series of words that contained spiritual themes, such as "feel," "soul," "destroy," and "spirit." The other group was given a series of ordinary words, especially without any spiritual elements, and they were also asked to create different sentences. Later, they shared a guideline with all participants, which had an economic focus as the main theme. The guideline was quite simple: the first player would be given a certain amount of money to start the game. This player could choose to give a portion of the money they held to the next player or keep it for themselves. However, the second player would never know the identity of the first player. Only the first player would know that the amount of money was 10 dollars in 1-dollar bills. Let's recap the groups. The first group consisted of those who created sentences with spiritual content, while the other group consisted of those who created sentences with ordinary words. The game began, and members of both groups played with other members of their respective groups. The results were supportive of the hypothesis of the study. The members of the group that created sentences with spiritual words left an average of 4.44 dollars, significantly more money, to the next group member. On the other hand, the members of the group that created sentences with ordinary words left an average of 2.56 dollars to the next group member. Therefore, why were the members of the first group more sharing compared to the second group? Our researchers, Mr. Shariff and Mr. Norenzayan, observed that none of the participants in both groups were aware of the correlation between the sentence-making game and the economic game. Of course, everyone wants to earn money, which is already supported by the results. In the group with higher sharing, just like in the group with lower sharing, the first player kept a certain amount of money for themselves and did not give it all away. The results of the study show that before the main data collection in the economic game, members of the first group were subconsciously primed with different words compared to the other group. The sentences they constructed with spiritual words inherently contained some spiritual messages. While their minds were engaged in the process of sentence generation, they were continuously sending stimuli to their subconscious minds. During the experiment, they were unaware that they had a subconscious influence on the sharing of the money they held with the individuals who came after them. The impact they experienced in the recent past activated their decision-making mechanisms and manifested in their behavior. A similar situation can be observed in the business world. Especially since the 2000s, many companies have been determining their employees' salaries based on a fixed amount plus a bonus system considering numerical success rates. This is most commonly seen in sales departments. Employees in sales work in teams and compete fiercely both within their teams and with other groups. Intra-group and inter-group competition is considered beneficial for the company and therefore the employer. However, some operational managers who read and keep themselves up to date observe that this can lead to counterproductive results over time. For example, imagine a unit where both the field team and the call center are responsible for selling a product, and this unit also handles customer complaints and requests outside these two groups. You receive a call from the call center, and on the other end of the line, someone who talks to you as if they have known you for years and knows your usage habits tries to sell you that product. Your resistance breaks after a while, and you agree to purchase the product. It reaches your hands, and you want to return it with disappointment. You call the call center. All you want is a refund, but you go through another intense persuasion process. When you ask a question about the product, you mostly receive evasive answers. Why did you experience such a process? We learn about the background of the situation from an operations manager. A dedicated manager provides us with quite insightful information. In many companies that provide remote sales services to their customers, having a complaint department is mandatory. These complaints can be categorized into four main types. Among these categories, the most prominent one is the first contact employee who reaches out to you for sales. When you ask for additional information about the product, if they don't possess that information themselves, they mostly prefer not to ask a more experienced colleague or their manager. The reason behind this is their fear of being labeled as someone with little knowledge and constantly asking questions within the company. There is such intense competition within the team they belong to that being someone who constantly asks questions makes them anxious about becoming the weak link in the team. If they were to ask their manager, they assume it would be a threat to their future career goals. Asking other teams is considered a complete betrayal in their subconscious. They have to stop the customer's desire to go to the store to make the purchase because if they buy it there, all the effort they put into persuading them on the phone would go to waste, and the commission they would receive from the sale would vanish before it reaches their pocket. They will complete their task by using all the weapons at their disposal to finalize the sale as per the company's system and continue with their job by calling another person. Feeling that your needs are not met and that you have been deceived, you will contact the complaint department. The cost of this department was high in many companies around 2012, but later it started to be reduced, meaning there were layoffs or transfers between departments. The operations manager concludes that the language used by managers in sales teams towards employees has a significant impact on the progression of the process. For example, expressing terms like team spirit and cooperation with vague expressions does not have much influence on how employees perform their tasks. In fact, it has been realized that this blind competition causes a loss of up to 25% in both employee productivity and company expenses for companies. To prevent this loss, companies have chosen to narrow down the complaint departments rather than re-evaluating the stimuli that employees in sales teams are exposed to from the outside. The salesperson, who is a member of this example working system, receives messages daily in their subconscious that would lead to the mentioned results. It is not easy to become aware of the stimuli they are exposed to in a repetitive action experience. Even if they become aware, it is far beyond their scope of influence. They have to accept it and continue their work as they have been doing it or leave that job. Now, let's talk about your classmate at the university. You had paragraphs of time to think. So, what is your decision?