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What is Gatekeeping and Why is it Problematic?

In the modern lexicon, the term “gatekeeping” refers to when someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity. This behaviour is commonly associated with the tribe-like mentality of online social groups and identities, and can spawn many harmful effects both on a personal and professional level. 

Gatekeeping on social media can be damaging to mental health.

How Does Gatekeeping Effect People?

Gatekeeping can come in many forms; from microaggressions to open harassment and offensive behaviour. One of the most common examples of these microaggressions happen a disproportionate amount to women being asked by men to “prove” their knowledge on a particular topic they enjoy that is commonly considered to be predominantly “for men.” In this case, an elitist behaviour displaying itself through a patriarchal mindset.  

While men in said communities tend to attribute unawareness to being a woman, they are not the sole perpetrator. Men also are victim to the same type of gatekeeping behaviour, as well as under-represented groups such as people of colour or those with LGBT+ identities. It goes without saying that this toxic behaviour is counterintuitive; groups cannot grow like this, communities cannot thrive if they’re filled with gatekeepers. Gatekeeping is a horrible behaviour that discourages people who long for a community or are passionate about something from learning, and for these reasons it’s unhealthy and truly harmful to society and to the mental health of those on the receiving end.  

Let’s consider the ramifications of gatekeeping on a global scale; what would happen if politics were dominated by gatekeepers, if democratic countries was discouraged from learning about the branches of the government or the law-making process, or if programmers and software engineers were unable to find online communities to learn from? It would be a disaster, no one would learn anything and technological progress would eventually come to a standstill all because a select few said “no” with no credentials to do so and exclude others from equal participation and fair treatment within those sectors.

How Does Gatekeeping Effect People in the Workplace?

It should therefore come as no surprise that toxic workplace conduct can manifest if gatekeeping is not called out and responsibility dealt with beforehand. This can come in the form of making select employees and peers feel less valued than their counterparts, to bullying, harassment, making biased decisions on who you employ, or not paying certain employees as much as their counterparts. Historically, women, people of colour, and LGBT+ individuals have been the victim of gatekeeping in the workplace the most, being overlooked for promotions and suffering harassment that feed into gatekeeping tactics by patriarchal, hetero-normative, and Anglo-centric society expectations.  

Sometimes your employees or colleges may be suffering unfair treatment at work in silence. If they feel ignored by their peers or HR, they understandably may feel as though they are undervalued and no one will address the toxic workspace behaviour. If you observe examples of harmful behaviour happening at work, be sure to step in and not remain silent on the issue, especially if you do not belong to a demographic that is often the victim of this toxic behaviour. Coming to the aid of people on the receiving end of gatekeeping behaviour and taking action against the perpetrators of said behaviour can not only improve work morale, but improve the reputation, efficiency, and growth of the company brand as it proves itself as a positive place to work. According to research by Ernst & Young those who feel like they are fairly treated in the workplace are “3.5 times more likely to contribute to their full, innovative potential.” 

In Conclusion

Gatekeeping is a harmful behaviour that, if unchecked, can lead to interpersonal and professional issues and feelings of alienation. If you see it, say something. 

If you feel affected by the issues raised in this article, consider contacting us at Ceed to see how we can help you. 

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