Have you ever told a stressed-out coworker to relax? If you have, how did that person react? It’s likely that it didn’t go across very well. It might even have led to some friction between the two of you.

It’s actually never a good idea to tell stressed coworkers to relax (even if you really think they should). It’s not helpful feedback, it often comes across as critical, and it actually may cause your coworkers to feel even more stress. And it’s not even physically possible to relax on command. Researchers have found that it takes the body between 20 – 60 minutes to transition from an anxious state to a relaxed state.

Instead of ordering coworkers to relax, it’s much better to initiate a short conversation with them. Mention that they seem to be having a busy day, and ask them how things are going. Giving your coworkers the opportunity to “vent” a little bit and talk about their stressful situation will most likely help them to relax and feel better.

But what if you’re on the receiving end of this terrible advice? What if you’re having a stressful day, and your boss orders you to relax? First, try not to get mad. (It will only make your stressful day worse.) Next, take a deep breath, pause before you say anything, and then acknowledge the fact that you’re feeling stressed. Ask your boss if you can schedule a meeting to discuss the project that you’re working on and things that can be done to make it more manageable.

It also might be a good idea to consider the way you work. It’s possible that your style of working might provoke stress in others. If that’s the case, try to adjust your style. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in the timeframe that you’ve been given. Take more short breaks during the day, get some exercise (even a short walk down the hall can help), remember to take deep breaths, and try using some simple relaxation techniques.


Shellenbarger, S. (2016, August 16). Why you should never tell someone to relax. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-you-should-never-tell-someone-to-relax-1471370408