Your Gen Z Coworkers Are Laughing When You Use the Phrase 'Out of Pocket.' Here's Why — Plus 5 Other Common Communication Fails. Your simple attempt to say you have a dentist appointment in the afternoon could be leaving your younger colleagues in stitches.

By Amanda Breen

Key Takeaways

  • Millennial and boomer professionals often say they'll be "out of pocket" if they have to step away during the work day.
  • Typically, Gen Z uses the phrase to describe something wild or inappropriate.

The generational language gap is nothing new — and it's causing some comical misunderstandings in the workplace.

Gen Z is amused when their millennial and boomer colleagues use the phrase "out of pocket" to signal they'll be stepping away during the work day because it means something entirely different for the younger set, Insider reported.

Related: 3 Ways Gen Z CEOs are Crushing Stereotypes | Entrepreneur

What's the disconnect? Gen Z uses "out of pocket" to describe something that's "inappropriate or wild," according to a "cringe quiz" for Gen-Z office speak fluency published by The Washington Post last year. In the context of the younger generation's definition, people who use the phrase to express they have a dentist appointment are instead suggesting they'll be creating chaos from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

The Washington Post's quiz featured other generational communication divides, including the word "slay" (which basically translates to doing something really well) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, several emojis that can leave wires crossed.

Gen Z uses the skull emoji to convey they're dying from laughter, the smiley face with a mild grin to show they're not really happy and the painting nails emoji to express a range of meanings — "sass, pettiness or nonchalant confidence," Lieke Verheijen, assistant professor of communication at Radboud University in the Netherlands, told the outlet.

Related: 5 Simple Tips for Incorporating Gen Z Into Your Workplace

Ending a sentence with a period might also be misinterpreted.

The period "has lost its original purpose because rather needing a symbol to indicate the end of a sentence, you can simply hit send on your message," Gretchen McCulloch, linguist and author of the book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, told NPR — so using it now "can indicate seriousness or a sense of finality."

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a features writer at She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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