The Principle of potentiality and the Ethical Dangers

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19 October 2015

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The Principle of potentiality and the Ethical Dangers


            When students complete their education and graduate from universities, they hope to get better jobs that pertain to their training and henceforth lead a happy life. This is the basic mentality of every person who goes to school. It is an understanding that has been inculcated into the minds of the students by the society. Nobody anticipates a low quality life owing to the fact he or she cannot secure a suitable job. Coupled to this great optimism is the sense that these students acquire informing them that they are qualified to handle their respective anticipated jobs. The teachers keep on motivating these students to perform at their best. Their parents encourage them to become the best. Their friends and colleagues push them to reach to the sky. Potential employers also are not left behind. They constantly remind these students that jobs are awaiting them. These potential employers advertise themselves to the students in an interesting manner. They present their case in a manner that leaves the students thinking about themselves and their abilities. This challenges the students and makes them more aggressive in what they decide to do in order to meet the criteria set out by the potential employers. However, there are setbacks that are associated with this apparent way that the potential employers present themselves to the students. Though they make students competitive and perform better, they end up creating a culture that may not be so encouraging in the long term. Students who are to be future employees experience problems associated with the information they get from their institutions and the potential employers (Costea, Amiridis and Crumps, 2012, p.25). This paper seeks to bring to light some of the repercussions of unlimited positivism that is usually focused on the students in the future in their jobs.

            It is a human nature to want credit and affirmation in everything that they do. This is why it makes any person happy when shown approval of whatever they do. It would become a great set back to any human being if his or her struggles are not met with approval. The same case happens to students. Take for instance when a student is told that he or she has done very good in his or her studies. This approval can go a long way to boosting their morale and ultimately improve their future performance. But suppose the same student is told that he or she is good for nothing and cannot accomplish anything! Such a student will definitely lose motivation in whatever he or she was doing. It goes without saying that such a student will most likely not do whatever he or she was doing. This is because it is not attracting any affirmation. This would result to extremely detrimental consequences if the activity in question is to do with education. This is because the end result would be a failure. In other words, affirming and encouraging a person always bears positive results. This is because it is the humans’ desire to receive credit in the things that they do.

            Many a times, institutions encourage their students by telling them that they have potential to do better. They keep on telling them that they need to do more. This statement pushes the students to the wall as they strive to meet these newly set demands. They feel obliged to do better and better. They strive to get to the next level. They anticipate acquiring new status in terms of their performance. It is imperative to state here that they do all these things in order to meet the demands imposed on them. These demands are made to appear so personalized to the extent that each individual person feels obliged to perform. In the end, some end up becoming “successful”. Others may lose energy on the way and unfortunately fail to meet these new demands. However, no one wants to appear a failure. It is like a cut point is set out the moment a person is told that there is need to do more. This means that failure to achieve this intended new level prescribe to failure. There is stiff competition among those involved. Each struggles to become the best possible. Each strives to meet the perceived expectations of those who set out these new expectations. No one is left behind. To the credit of these institutions, these students may end up performing very well. The individual performance is translated to the ultimate success of the institution. This same principle applies to the employment world as we shall see.

            The recruitment of employees into the job market has been highly influenced by the ideologies that the human resource management has instilled into the minds of the potential employees (Costea, Amiridis and Crumps, 2012, p. 25). This influence has been traced back to the time these employees are in school. It has been noted that during their campaigns, the employment institution advertise themselves to the graduates in a manner that triggers them to think deeply about their potentials. In a technical way, the employers have been using the principle of potentiality to encourage and motivate the graduates. They tell them that they have potential to be the best in all that they can aspire to do. They also tell them that they can land into the highest positions available if only they become the best. This notion to become the best is in line with the principle of potentiality. It means that one has to do more. In other words, it means that the current status of the individual is not enough hence the need to do more. The impact of this statement on the attitude of the graduates cannot be underestimated. The graduates acquire a new character that is in line with the moral values upheld by the human resource management. This new character is the ideal character that is created by the human resource management. The principle of potentiality dictates that every human being has a potential to be more and to do more than he or she is doing at the present moment. It is such a strong principle that influences the mindset of employees and the potential employees.

            To illustrate the principle of potentiality that is inculcated in the minds of graduates, let us use an example of a law student who graduated with the feeling that he was the best law student. He did not expect any other person of his level to challenge him in the practice. This person had obtained a preformed mentality from the teachers that actually he was a very good lawyer. The attitude was greatly influenced when lawyers came to talk to the students of their class. One day, a professional lawyer was speaking to the. He was campaigning to the graduates about their law firm. This is what he said: “why should a good lawyer be satisfied by being a good lawyer? Our firm offers an opportunity for a good lawyer to transform his or her abilities into talents”. He concluded his speech by telling the graduates never to get discouraged. Instead, each one of them had the hidden ability to be the best and be at the top. The utterances of this speaker influenced this law student who literally transformed into a person who was out to impress each person by his performance. He qualified with the highest grades possible. However, even that did not make him go slow on the matters of life. This person felt that there was still a room to improve. Therefore, the person worked harder and harder in everything he did. He felt like a dynamo that has been set into an endless motion and not at all in a position to stop. Any time he did something that signified success, he felt the need to achieve more. He continued with the same trend even in the work.

            By all standards, this lawyer was succeeding. But that is according to the judgment of the general public. The person himself felt disturbed by the fact that he was not happy with whatever level he had reached. By this time, he had secured a job with a very renowned law firm. Coincidentally, the law firm that had got him a job had been earlier involved in the campaigns that influenced the focus of these graduates through the human resource management personnel. In fact it is their human resource management personnel who made a very life-changing speech to the students that show this particular lawyer in this kind of thinking. The thinking was becoming bothersome by now. The person was getting tired by struggling to impress the rest at the expense of what he could actually accomplish. He went an extra mile in order to get the credit of being told that he was the best lawyer. Of course he obtained this credit on several occasions. He had made very many contributions in the law firm. To begin with, hehad helped to expand the customer base tremendously. This was through his constant presence in the office whenever required by the clients and never failed his clients whatsoever. He ensured that the needs of the clients were handled with care and as a matter of priority.

            The lawyer reached a point that he encountered his limits. As expected, he was not willing to accept that he could be held down by anything. He set out to thinking so hard as to how he could overcome these limitations and make the next move. Unfortunately he was not able to find the way out. The particular limitations were as follows. Remember the success of a lawyer is sometimes determined by how successfully he or she argues the cases of his or her clients. In order to feel superior, a successful lawyer must be able to argue the case out in such a manner that his or her client is deemed innocent by the judge. Now, this was the aspiration of this particular lawyer. He wanted to win every time he represented a client for a case. Not that he had not won any case before. In fact, to his credit, he had made himself famous by winning several cases thanks to his unprecedented ambition to become the best lawyer. However, it was inevitable that he could not win some cases perhaps due to their complex nature. Any time he lost a case, he felt disillusioned. He did not want to admit that he had human limitations despite his unrivalled desire to become always the best. It happened that this lawyer lost three consecutive cases. He could not fathom this turn of events. He could not believe this was happening to him. This is because he had been made to think that he was the best and only the best that could come out of him. Because of the ideology that had been put in him, this person was greatly suffering.

            Moreover, this lawyer began experiencing an inner conflict between who he really was and what he thought he ought to have been. He carefully examined both sides. What he was can be described as the actuality. It is the phenomenon that is truly there present in is real form. What this lawyer thought he was ought to have been can be described as the “ought” phenomenon. This is an ideal situation that is only present in the mind. It is mostly used as a mirror to direct the actions of the individual towards its actualization mostly, the “ought” phenomenon is achieved and the subject becomes happy. For the case of this lawyer, every time he actualized one “ought” phenomenon, he immediately created another one as a challenge to make him go up and up. The conflict that arose emanated from the fact that the lawyer felt a sense of defeat. He felt this sense of defeat because he could not achieve the new set out challenges. He thought about how to solve this challenge but could not. This conflict progressed to the sense of anxiety and depression. The person started acknowledging his limitations but at a cost. The cost was the tremendous setback borne from the fact that he was never prepared to experience such kind of episodes.

            The above illustration is a clear example of how motivation can endup making somebody rise up the ladder. Unfortunately, the person ends up feeling betrayed if by any means some desires become unfulfilled. Employers have perfected the art of motivating the graduates. They are made to believe that out there life is so easy and that there are no stresses. As already mentioned, the employers, through the human resource management department, has devised ways of motivating the potential employees in order to work better. Remember that we said that any action that is accompanied by an affirmation is bound to be done again and again and even better. Employers therefore, have realized that constant reminder to the employees and the potential employees that they need to do more yields great results with regard to their performance. Many a times, employers have succeeded in attracting employees because of using very nice words of optimism. In our illustration above, the lawyer was attracted to the law firm that ended up employing him simply because he heard that there was an opportunity to expand his skills. As a matter of, nobody can refuse such a psychological gift. Take for instance when a job advert includes words such as “are you smart? Come and work with us to realize your full potential”. This statement is so enticing. The fact that nobody can say he or she is not smart offers a catching technique by the company to the potential employees. In addition, the assurances that working with this company will enable you realize your full potential is highly captivating. The prospects of becoming a better person than the present state is always welcome in the human nature.

            In the end, the lawyer who wanted to be the best of the best amid the challenges fails. He is affected by the inability to overcome his limitations. This set a stage for his failure. And the failure is not the ordinary failure. It is a failure that results from anxiety and depression. Anxiety comes in because one did not anticipate failing in the first place. It comes when one realizes that failing is the nearest choice and almost inevitable. Depression results the moment one succumbs to anxiety. It results when an individual is completely desperate after becoming aware of the fact that there is nothing that can be done to save the situation. The principle of potentiality has been the greatest tool usedby the employer to motivate the employees. However, according to Costea, Amiridis and Crump (2012, p. 29), the principle of potentiality often leaves the subjects in denial of their limitations. But the question that we need to ask is this; does denying that a problem exists really mean that it is not there? The answer is no. The denial of the problem only makes it thrive well because there are no measures put in place from the start to counter these problems. The reason why our lawyer gets into the problems is because he initially denied his limitations. But denying them did not make them disappear. They came to haunt him. This was inevitable as it is inevitable to any other person depending on the level of this denial.

            Careful evaluation of the principle of potentiality that is the major technique of the human resource management reveals a tragedy. According to Costea, Amiridis and Crump (2012, p. 32), this tragedy is described as the tragedy of culture. It is a tragedy of culture because when the human resource management uses the principle of potentiality, it creates ideal objects from cultural subjects that are so rigid to the extent that they are not flexible to changes. This rigid subject does not allow the limits to appear in their life. Costea, Amiridis and Crumps (2012, p. 32) argues that the conflict that arises when an individual is confronted by the reality of what he or she is versus what he or she is supposed to be is the conflict of human limitations. It occurs when the person realizes that there are limitations that prevent him or her from achieving the desired position. Whenever the word “more” is mentioned to encourage someone, it simply signifies that one is presently insufficient. This self-insufficiency is tackled by working more and more in order to be “more”.

            Finally, let us look at the dangers associated with the principle of potentiality. First, the principle of potentiality set out a stage the can precipitate failure. How does this happen? It happens when an individual is pushed behold his or her limits in order to achieve. This person is fully aware that he or she must meet the expectations of those who are setting these standards. However, at the same time, there is anxiety. The person fears that he or she may not be up the task. This anxiety is characterized by questions such as “what if I can’t be up to the task”? These extra qualities that are demanded in order to achieve extraordinary results may be hard to come by. According to Costea,Amiridis, and Crumps (2012, p. 33), one feels a sense of guilt on recognizing that he or she has limits to be “more”. That is to say that the moment one realizes that there is a distinction between what he or she is and the level that he or she anticipates to reach, a sense of failure comes in.

            The second danger that is paused by the principle of potentiality and the need to be more is the unprecedented individualism that occurs as a result according to Costea, Amiridis and Crumps (2012, p. 34). In the spirit of wanting to be “more”, the person puts himself or herself first. He or she becomes self-possessed. In other words, he or she becomes overly self-centered. One is not ready to tell others about his or her fears. They cannot communicate about their doubts. This means that the person is solely preoccupied by oneself. This is a social catastrophe. It is against the spirit of society to behave in such a manner. Worse still, a person will try to get affirmation on his or her potential even if at the expense of others. This means that even if others are to suffer, the person who is out to shine will continue to do so oblivious of their suffering. This pressure to be the one at the top is so enormous that one does not care about another person. This spirit of individualism contributes to the tragedy of the principle of potentiality.

            In conclusion, we have seen that motivating words to students can have a great impact in their performance. Institutions take advantage of this to encourage their students to do better. They hope that by performing better they become better people in future. Not only that. They also anticipate to secure good and fulfilling jobs upon their graduation. The same principle of encouragement is taken advantage of by the human resource management. They talk to the graduates and tell them that those who succeed are those who strive to be more. The ethos that has been created by the human resource management is the principle of potentiality. It stipulates that each individual has a potential to do better and to be better according to Costea, Amiridis and Crumps (2012, p. 33). However, there are dangers that are associated with this ethos. First, individuals fail to succeed owing to the fact that they work in constant fear of failing to meet the expectations. Secondly, the pressure to be the best gives birth to an individualistic kind of society.


Bogdan, C., Kostas, A. & Norman, C. 2012. Graduate Employability and the principle Of potentiality: An Aspect of the Ethics of HRM. Web

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