Workplace English Podcasts

BEP 65: Discussing Someone's Performance

08 May 2017

 

Discussing someone’s performance refers to analysing their strengths and weaknesses. Managers often have to discuss the performance of those in their team. This is usually because a manager’s appraisal goes on an employee’s record and also helps to identify if an employee is ready for a promotion. When discussing someone’s performance, remember to keep the conversation professional. Focus on the person’s work-related skills, and not on his or her personal details or habits. Give reasons and examples to support your opinions, so that others know that you are not biased.

You may also have to discuss someone’s performance face-to-face with that person. In such a situation, you need to be a little more tactful and polite when talking about their skills, especially their weaknesses and the areas in which they need to improve. Even if you have something negative to say, you can put it across in positive terms. The second dialogue in today’s lesson will show you how you can do that.

Situation 1

You will now listen to a conversation between two managers, Jennifer and Andrew, who are discussing the performance of their team members Carolyn and Ling. They need to make a decision on which one to promote.

 

BEP 29: Cold Calling: Arranging Meetings

13 Feb 2017

Introduction

There are a number of ways in which cold calls can be effective. One is for the selling organization to start with a high quality, up-to-date database consisting of qualified potential clients that have an interest in the product being sold. Another is to use cold calls as a "step in the door". Rather than using the call to try to close a sale, it is used as the initial contact in a long-term relationship. This has the effect of removing the sales pressure from calls and making the goal of the call to build trust.

Situation

Salesman Kyle Brant calls two different companies for the first time to try to set up a sales meeting. Notice how he introduces himself. Notice also how he find his “way in,” his connection to make what he’s selling more appealing to the potential customer.

 

BEP 50: Business Meetings - Discussing Business Proposals

03 Feb 2017

A meeting to discuss a business proposal is usually an integral part of creating a business plan. While it is common for the proposal to be written by one person, it is also common for team members or prospective clients to be available during such meetings to give their opinions and input on what they feel should be changed or included. The person who has written the proposal should be prepared to answer questions on the content and should be open to the revisions that may be necessary.

The functional language involved in such a discussion focuses around two key areas. Firstly, we often find the conditional tense being used in such discussions, since the proposal has not been accepted yet. Secondly, auxiliary and modal verbs (also known as helping verbs) are commonly used along with words and phrases indicating personal opinions and suggestions as the speakers speculate about the future.  

An unsolicited proposal is one that is created by a small company or charitable organization that wants to collaborate with a larger firm to increase the scale of its activities, and that approaches larger firms independently with its proposed course of business.

In this dialogue, you will hear a conversation that two members of a non-governmental organization (NGO) have with a prospective charitable donor. Joyce has written the proposal and is discussing the details with her colleague, Nicholas, and the prospective donor, Michelle.

Before moving on to the listening exercise, read the outline of the proposal below.

 

BEP 59: Giving a Verbal Report

23 Jan 2017

Giving a verbal report is often an urgent task that comes up when your manager cannot wait for a written report. A verbal report may need to be prepared quickly since it is usually related to issues that are urgent and need to be resolved as soon as possible.

In a verbal report, keep in mind that the results or findings are usually presented first, and suggestions and recommendations are given later. A verbal report is less formal than a presentation, and the listener may often interrupt you to ask for clarifications or for your opinion or suggestions.

A verbal report is usually a combination of a mini-presentation and a question and answer session. You should be sure of your facts and be prepared to answer questions clearly and informatively. You should also be able to offer solutions and recommendations for the issue you’re reporting on.

Situation 1

You will now listen to a dialogue between Jason, a supervising executive at an engineering site, and his manager Liz. Liz has asked Jason to give her a verbal report on a complaint made by a client.

 

BEP 81: Telephoning - Making a Cancellation

18 Jan 2017

telephoning

Introduction

Often in business things don’t go according to plan. Sales fall, meetings are rescheduled, budgets are cut, orders are cancelled, flights are delayed. So just how do we inform our colleagues or customers about bad news? How should we apologise and how should we react to an apology?

In this podcast lesson, we’re going to use a telephone conversation between a buyer and a supplier to illustrate some of the common language used when giving and reacting to bad news.

Situation 

Andrea Suchy, a clothes buyer for a large shop in London, is calling one of her suppliers, Prebdel Manufacturing in Hong Kong, to cancel a recently placed order.

Because the company has recently declared a profit warning, the purchasing department is being required to reduce its purchases by 25%. However, the order with Prebdel was placed one week before this and it might be too late to cancel.

You’re now going to listen to Andrea as she tries to cancel her order without damaging her business relationship with Prebdel.

 

BEP 40: Negotiating - Kicking Off and Outlining Your Position

03 Jan 2017

Making successful negotiations is an important part of working in a professional context. It is important to remember that you should define your position clearly before you enter a negotiation. In order to define your position, you need to be sure about the following aspects of your position: 

  • What you are negotiating for, or what you want;
  • What compromises you are willing to make;
  • What you are willing to lose; and
  • What your bottom line is, that is, the least that you are willing to negotiate for.

Remember, a successful negotiation is usually one that starts well. So the initial discussions are critical in terms of how you and your business associates create favorable impressions of each other.

In this podcast lesson, you’re going to listen to two dialogues. In the first dialogue the participants set the scene for the negotiation by both sides outlining their positions. In the second dialogue, the participants clarify each other positions. At no point during these two initial stages does any actual negotiation occur.

 

 

BEP 69: Making Future Plans

26 Nov 2016

Introduction

In this podcast lesson, we’re going to listen in on a business meeting where colleagues are making plans for the future.

We’re going to focus on three main areas of language in this lesson. First, we show you how to ask for and give opinions and we’ll point out the difference between opinions and suggestions, which are often confused. Second, we’ll show you how to make simple suggestions using common functional expressions. And finally, we’ll show you how to make plans using the future simple tense ‘will’ and ‘going to.’ ‘Will’ and ‘going to’ are also often confused. They have similar, yet slightly different uses. We’ll make the differences between these two future forms clear.

Situation 1

You're now going to listen to two colleagues, Liz and Sam, having a short business meeting. They are meeting to discuss the details of a new company newsletter. Here they discuss the aim of the newsletter and possible content.

 

BEP 54: Resolving Internal Conflicts

11 Nov 2016

Internal conflicts can arise in the workplace about commonplace issues when employees feel that their expectations are not being met. There may be many reasons for an employee feeling dissatisfied or unhappy, and if such issues are not resolved, they can create a bad atmosphere in the workplace. Communication is an important aspect of expressing and identifying needs, and of resolving them before they grow into larger problems.

Clear communication regarding conflict in the workplace is a two-way process in which both parties express their concerns and pay attention to each other’s points of view to ensure that they communicate efficiently. The key to effective communication in the resolution of conflicts in the workplace is to keep emotions out of the zone of communication as far as possible, and to focus on the practical aspects of the conflict in order to resolve it successfully.

It’s always important to consider the point of view of the other party and to ensure that you communicate to the other person that you are able to appreciate their point of view on the situation.

Keep in mind also that conflict can often be resolved in informal situations such as a conversation during a coffee break, and not necessarily during a meeting.

In this lesson, we will focus on three key areas of conflict resolution: empathizing with the other person’s concerns, clarifying their position, and making practical suggestions to work out the problem.

You will now listen to a dialogue between Jack and his manager Anna, who are making small talk before a business meeting. During the course of the conversation, Jack asks Anna about the status of his application for a transfer to a different city.

 

BEP30: Being Assertive and Standing your Ground

03 Nov 2016

Although it’s not the same in all business cultures, standing up for yourself, or being assertive, is an important communication skill in Western business culture. You’re more likely to get respect from your colleagues and superiors if you stand up for what you believe in, especially if you can back up your argument or request with real facts and figures.

Being overly assertive or inflexible can cause problems, however, so learning how to achieve a balance is important. Each situation you encounter needs careful thought and planning. Don’t rush into situations where you could weaken your relationship with others or weaken your position within the company.

The following two dialogues demonstrate how standing your ground can work—and how it can sometimes backfire.

SITUATION 1

Conflicts at work can occur for many different reasons. Sometimes, more senior members of staff expect newer members of staff to treat them with respect, even when the newer members may be more talented or skilled than they are. This is the basic theme of the first dialogue.

Let’s now listen in as Nancy, a senior stock trader, talks to Jason, a recently-employed junior trader. It seems that Nancy and her colleagues are not very happy with Jason’s attitude towards them.

 

BEP27: Business Small Talk - Discussing Attitude and Performance

22 Sep 2016

small_talk

There is a time and a place to talk about employee attitude and performance. Often this is done in an informal situation, sometimes when a manager is new or is taking over a team of new employees. There are many ways of discussing employees and how they are performing.

Let’s listen in as Darlene, the department manager, and her assistant, Richard, discuss a number of employees.

 

BEP 34: Making Persuasive Arguments

04 Aug 2016

When you think about it, so much of business involves influencing others. Sometimes, the influence effort is effort-less. On other occasions, though, you will encounter objections. In this podcast, you will hear techniques that work, that help you get your message across. They will make your job of persuading others easier. Basically, when presenting an argument the recommendations are:

1.     Remain professional at all times.
2.     Restate the comment.
3.     Convert the objection to a question, if possible.
4.     Turn the objection around.
5.     Cite research.
6.     Anticipate objections.
7.     Involve others.

In the two situations that we’re going to look at, we’ll see how these recommendations are put into action.
 

BEP 67: Saying 'No' in the Right Way

22 Jul 2016

Introduction

Most of us find it difficult to say ‘no’ when someone asks us for a favour, don’t we? It’s difficult to say ‘no’ when you know someone needs your help. It becomes even more difficult to say ‘no’ in the workplace, because you don’t want to offend anyone. However, it’s possible to refuse to do something in a polite and nice way that does not annoy anyone, hurt their feelings or cause offence.

In this lesson, we will look at how to say ‘no’ in the workplace in a way that ensures that the other person can see your point of view. You can do this by speaking factually, firmly and using a calm and polite tone.

Situation 1

You will now listen to two versions of a conversation between Jim and his boss. In the first version, Jim is not able to say ‘no’, and ends up having to do the favour and also make his boss feel that he is doing it unwillingly.

 

BEP 66: Telephoning - Dealing with Persistent Callers

05 Jul 2016

Introduction

Persistent callers are people who keep calling until they can speak to a certain person. It may be your job to answer the phone and speak several times to the same caller. The caller may be trying to sell something, or may want to talk to someone in your office for a specific reason.

Even if the same person calls many times, you should speak to them politely but firmly. There are many ways in which you can politely tell a caller that they do not need to call again, or that they can leave a message for the recipient.

In this lesson, we will look at how to use specific words and phrases to deal with persistent callers.

Remember that you need to remain polite and patient while talking to callers, even if they call many times.

Situation

You will now listen to a conversation between Sandra, a secretary, and Paul, a persistent caller.

 

BEP 71: Telephoning - Finalizing Agreements

06 Apr 2016

telephoning

Introduction

Quite often in business, a deal can be concluded without having a face-to-face business meeting. Where the terms of a deal are not so complex, or a deal has already been partially reached, much of the final negotiation can be done over the phone. In more complex situations, however, face-to-face negotiations are usually necessary.

If you would like to change the terms of an existing agreement, before you make your call to finalize the agreement, you should be clear about your starting and finishing positions. Do the calculations in advance and work out what a satisfactory outcome to the negotiations would be for you. Be aware of all the factors that have an impact on the deal; in most cases there will be some flexibility with these factors.

Situation 

Jenny Bond of United Wholesalers in London has just received the following fax from Bernard Chan of NEG in Hong Kong. NEG supplies fork-lift trucks.

FAX

Re: Special Order of 20 Fork-lift Trucks

Dear Jenny

We regret that our standard vehicles are not suitable for your purpose, but confirm that we can manufacture to the specifications you have forwarded.

Unless you can increase your order from 20 vehicles, however, there will be a substantial charge for this service.

Please let us know if you would like to pursue the matter further.

Yours sincerely

International Sales Director
Bernard Chan

Jenny then telephones Bernard to see if he will accept an order of 25 trucks so they can finalise an agreement. Let’s listen in on their conversation.

 

BEP42: Clarifying and Confirming Instructions

28 Feb 2016

When you’re given verbal instructions, it’s essential that you clarify anything you don’t understand or are unclear about. Even if you feel you’ve understood everything correctly, it’s a good idea to repeat back the instructions to whoever gave them to you to ensure that you haven’t misunderstood or missed anything. This will help to minimize any errors you might make whilst you are carrying out the instructions.

In this podcast lesson, you’re going to listen to two dialogues. In the first dialogue the instructions given are quite brief and straightforward. In this case, the listener waits until all the instructions have been given before making any clarifications. In the second dialogue, the instructions are longer and more detailed. In this dialogue, the listener clarifies the instructions at appropriate points while they are being given.

When listening to the dialogues, make a note of some of the common expressions used to clarify and confirm the instructions.

 
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