Last month, I was at a dinner party, and someone mentioned an interview with actor Andrew Scott in his film All of Us Strangers. ( The film highlights the family dynamics experienced by queer people are explored further through the characters who show us that even within a family seemingly ‘ok’ with queerness, heteronormativity can still result in othering. In interviews after the film was released, Scott spoke about the concept of “othering” and his own experiences as a gay man in the entertainment industry.)

The conversation turned towards me as I was deemed the expert on the topic (I’m not!). Was othering another woo-hoo DEI fad? So, I thought I would share what I know and how important it is to be aware of othering on an individual, collective and systemic level.

What is the concept of othering?
“Othering” is a term from sociology and critical theory that refers to how individuals or groups are perceived and treated as distinct, separate, and often inferior. This concept involves distinguishing and distancing a person or group from one’s identity or community, typically by emphasising and exaggerating differences. This process is crucial for understanding how societal divisions are reinforced, encompassing divisions based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and other identity markers. It typically involves a power dynamic where the dominant group establishes itself as the norm and the other group as deviant or marginal. This dynamic can lead to practices of discrimination, marginalisation, and exclusion.

Othering shapes social identities and hierarchies and is observable in various contexts, including politics, media, and everyday interactions. Understanding this concept is essential for addressing and dismantling the prejudices and inequalities it perpetuates in societies

What happens to people, items and organisations when othering is present?

Othering in the workplace can profoundly impact an organisation’s culture and its employees’ individual experiences. This process, where individuals or groups are perceived as different and inferior, cultivates an environment that undermines inclusivity and fosters discord.

Workplaces may become less harmonious, characterised by subtle discrimination and overt conflicts that disrupt team dynamics.

The impact of othering extends to collaboration within teams, where it can erode communication and mutual respect. Teams that view certain members as ‘other’ might not fully engage with them, leading to weakened cooperation and reduced effectiveness in achieving collective goals. This dynamic can also influence how team members are perceived in terms of their performance and potential, often resulting in biased evaluations and unequal opportunities for professional growth.

On an individual level, othering can severely affect mental health, leading to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and decreased self-esteem. These psychological impacts, in turn, influence job satisfaction and engagement, potentially increasing turnover rates. Employees who consistently feel marginalised are less likely to feel committed to their job or loyal to their company.

How to address, manage and tackle othering

Regular diversity and inclusion training to educate employees about unconscious bias and inclusive behaviours helps raise awareness and reduce stereotypes. Open communication should be encouraged at all levels, facilitating discussions where employees can share their experiences and perspectives and fostering understanding and respect among coworkers.

Inclusive policies that promote diversity should be clearly defined and strictly enforced, including equal opportunity employment practices and mechanisms for reporting and addressing issues related to exclusion or bias. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can be supported to provide a space for employees from marginalised groups to connect and support one another while also serving as a resource for the organisation in understanding diverse needs.

Leadership is critical in reducing othering by actively demonstrating a commitment to inclusion. Top leaders should participate in training, openly discuss the importance of inclusion, and set an example through their actions. Regular reviews of company policies and practices are necessary to identify and address elements that may contribute to othering, with adjustments made based on employee feedback. Moreover, fostering an inclusive culture involves more than formal policies and training; it requires a genuine commitment to recognising and valuing diversity at every level of the organisation.

Andrew Scott has spoken about the concept of “othering” about his own experiences as a gay man in the entertainment industry. His experience sheds light on the broader theme of “othering” in society, where differences are highlighted to marginalise or stigmatise certain groups.

Addressing the challenges posed by othering involves implementing comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion policies for organisations, including training programs that foster an understanding of inclusivity and actively promote a culture where all employees are respected and valued. By doing so, companies enhance their work environment and improve their overall business outcomes by retaining a diverse and motivated workforce.
Reducing othering in the workplace involves a comprehensive approach that begins with the organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. You know what can you do right now? Create an environment where you all feel valued and can contribute fully to the organisation’s success. That is all our responsibility!


  • Sunita Sehmi

    Organisational Dev I Exec Leadership Coach I Author I Mentor I

    Walk The Talk

    Org Dev Consultant I Exec Leadership Performance Coach I DEI Warrior I Author I Mentor I Work smarter I Live better I Think deeper. With over three decades of expertise in multicultural environments, Sunita brings a unique blend of Indian, British, and Swiss heritage to her consultancy, fostering a deep understanding of organisational contexts and her clients. Sunita’s insights and expertise are tailored to elevate your leadership.