Today my boss came by my desk and told to me

"stop whacking off, when will phase 2 of the project be completed?"

What does "stop whacking off" mean? I did not know how to respond.

What is an appropriate response?


Usually, if you don't know the meaning of a sentence, I would recommend a good dictionary, like Merriam–Webster's, or dictionary.com. There is an alternative dictionary, called "Urban Dictionary" where all of the definitions come from online users, and so it tends to get a lot of rude and slang words. In this case, this site has a great definition for whacking-off:

Noun to describe the process of masturbating.

So your boss was rudely saying that what you were being unproductive instead of working, as if you were masturbating at work. Although to be fair, masturbating at work is far worse than merely unproductive, so in this case it's probably a lot closer to saying you were slacking off, which just means not working as hard as you should be (it even rhymes!).

The appropriate response probably depends on whether or not you're offended by this remark. If you're not offended by his rough language, the appropriate response is probably to work harder. If you are, that might be a better question on the workplace.se than here.

  • 2
    Thanks for your answer, I am happy to get such honest feedback from you. Yes, I thought that "whacking off" maybe means "slacking off" but did not know that it really means masturbation. What unkind words from my boss.
    – user31113
    Mar 8 '16 at 5:02
  • 5
    @user31113 it doesn't necessarily need to be unkind. It's vulgar language and familiar, but friends who like to joke around can say that as well and not get offended. It totally depends on your dynamics with your boss I guess.
    – Tyress
    Mar 8 '16 at 8:57
  • 2
    Surely it is a verb, not a noun?
    – JBentley
    Mar 8 '16 at 9:17
  • 1
    @user31113 I agree with Tyress - if your boss is a fluent native speaker then it could be that he was just being rude and abrasive or it could also be that he feels friendly enough with you that he can be this casual in joking around. The tone of delivery will be the biggest signal here - it should be pretty clear if he was just having fun or if he was being rude. If, however, your boss is not a native speaker then it could be that he is just using the phrase inappropriately - playing with casual English but not fully understanding the weight of the phrase he is using.
    – J...
    Mar 8 '16 at 12:03
  • 1
    @user31113 it is crude, but situationally, this is metaphorical, not literal usage. I also think that "slacking off" is not quite right. The metaphorical intent can refer to paralysis by analysis, perfectionism, busywork, "spinning your wheels", or any form of work that even may create value, but that does not actually finish the work. Your boss obviously just wants you done. I would try not to be offended.
    – Aaron Hall
    Mar 8 '16 at 12:52

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