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What Does “Othering” Mean?

Othering is when we identify other groups of people as not fitting in with our own group. Businesses should take note.What Does “Othering” Mean?

Sunday thoughts: what is “othering”?

Othering is when we identify other groups of people as not fitting in with our own group. It’s literally us and the “others”.

It's often used with a negative connotation of "us vs them". It can be about skin colour, nationality, gender orientation, religion, age, and more. For example, locals vs immigrants, white vs black, Christians vs Muslims, etc.

Although some forms of “othering” have always existed, for example the ones mentioned above, I now see there are newer, more subtle forms of “othering” that seriously concern me.

The conservative vs liberal debate is gaining momentum in Europe and the US reaching violent tipping points. This time it’s “us vs them” all within the “us”.

White American/European conservatives are violently infuriated against their liberal counterparts, and vice versa. What used to be just a political opinion is becoming a dangerous ideology that goes beyond the typical forms of "othering" described above.

A conservative American might get along with a conservative Eastern European, for example, although far in geography, culture and religion. Similarly, a young hard-right Gen Z will likely get along with a 90-year-old former fascist, despite having little else in common.

Both sides are going to extremes, claiming only they are right while everyone else is wrong. Social media is obviously a great catalyst for this.

I was reading some articles about this and how it impacts the world of work and business.

Customers, employees, and stakeholders are increasingly angry and expect companies to always take a side in political and social matters. It’s not possible to stay neutral or simply avoid the debate.

Disney faced trouble for staying silent regarding Florida’s “Don't Say Gay” bill in 2022. Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines had similar problems for not promptly condemning Georgia's restrictive voting rights bills in 2021.

It’s not up to me to judge these companies’ actions, but one thing is certain: the debate is increasingly polarised, either-or, right or wrong, often reduced to a simple dichotomy instead of informed analysis. Also, the level of violence and outrage is rising.

How can companies, managers, and employees navigate all of this?
I wish I knew!

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