I recently googled Gatekeeping: what does it mean? According to Wikipedia the word ‘gatekeeper’ is a person that controls access to something or more recently an individual who decides whether a given message will be distributed to a wider audience. The term ‘gatekeeper’ is used in association with Assistants frequently, you will see it in job applications, CVs, articles relating to the industry and everything in between, but what does it mean to us?

Gatekeeping: what does it mean?

In an attempt to answer this question I first did a quick Google search and was astonished to find some websites detailing the skills required for salespeople and cold callers to ‘get past the gatekeeper’. In the minds of these industries, we are the people to get around and the barrier to overcome. Is this what gatekeeping means on a job application and if so how do we go about doing this part of our role?

I thought it would be a  good idea to delve a bit deeper and ask my fellow assistants their thoughts on this subject, after all, it is a consistent feature on a PA/EA job description but what do we personally think it means? I thought of a few descriptions I had noticed before and sent out a poll for assistants to answer.  Here are the results:

Gatekeeping: what does it actually mean?

Here are a few insightful comments that I also received along with the poll results.

The most important thing is to be a warm “gatekeeper”! So many “gatekeepers” are rude and unapproachable. Your style and the way you block the interruptions is so important. You should “gate-keep” in such a way that the person who is trying to “get in the door” doesn’t realise they are being blocked – they think that you are trying to assist them. Nothing worse than a bull-dog “gatekeeper” – not just with external stakeholders but internal stakeholders. Everyone always feels that their issue is an “urgent” issue. Tanya Battel

In my position, it means that I am the final authoriser for a process – for example ordering kit. I am the only person the supplier will speak to in the sector, and my authority stands. By having a gatekeeper, there is a clear communication path. Louise Jones

I think a successful gatekeeper serves as the first line of contact or liaison with the rest of the staff and the client. Your supervisor, manager, or CEO can be a very busy person and their time should be protected from interruptions, not because anyone is not important but simply because they can provide a better response if they are prepared for the request or inquiry that is coming through. A good gatekeeper should be able to handle most requests in a way that not only gives the person the information or time they are requesting but also pulls pieces together so the manager or CEO can provide the best response. Megan Stewart

My opinion as a “gatekeeper” is not obstructing anything. As an EA, we do not have any right to block anything including calls, communication, etc…etc…We should act as a filter for information, what is required and make it flow in the right direction and right manner. Anil Pullabhatla

So after conducting this research what do I think the term gatekeeper means?

Well on a simple level I think the term refers to managing the Executive’s time effectively and controlling how often they are interrupted. This could mean monitoring their phone calls, emails and meeting requests. To add more complexity to the role depends on your manager and their requirements.

I’ve had managers that have operated an open door policy and welcome interruptions and other managers that do not expect to receive any information unless it has either been scheduled as a meeting or came from me. Either way, it is a role we as assistants have to play and I would highly recommend it is something you discuss on a regular basis with your manager.

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Gatekeeping: what does it actually mean?

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