In this listen and learn English podcast we will explain some unfamiliar words and phrases used in the workplace here in the UK. It doesn’t matter if you are serving coffee in a Starbucks or trade a currency desk in Goldman Sachs, practice as a local Doctor or clean an office. If you work in the UK, you will encounter a new workplace culture in 2022, and it comes with an English vocabulary all of its own. So listen to today’s English lesson and find out how working in the UK is changing for everyone.
Learning English workplace phrases is a good way to feel confident about starting a new job. There are a lot of new jobs, the UK currently has record numbers of work vacancies. That means there are a lot of companies looking to employ people. But working in the UK has changed a lot, and companies expect a lot of their staff. The days of hiring someone and reviewing performance in 12 months time are long gone. Now you can expect to watched and measured a lot more often.
Well, there isn’t much we can do about that except explain what has changed. Talk about the English words and phrases you might expect to hear being used, and explain what they mean with examples. So we can at least prepare you a little for what to expect.
If you like our listen and learn way of helping you to speak English fluently, and you liked today’s podcast lesson, then you should check out our English courses. You can learn all about our approach to learning to speak English and why it’s so much better than traditional approaches to learning to speak English.
Workplace Vacancies Encounter Mono Pressure Deadline Target Bullseye Bonus Reward Promotion Resilient
Hi there today. Let's do some more of that vocabulary about jobs and the workplace - job and workplace vocabulary. So that's really useful to you. And while I'm doing that, I'm also gonna share with you some comments and opinions about the kinds of things I see happening in the workplace in the UK. And I'm wondering whether it's the same where you work.
Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.
First of all before I do any of that, a big thankyou to one of our listeners, Remziye. You spotted that on Google Play one of our podcasts number 547 was actually playing in mono. 'Mono', M O N O - that means that the sound is coming out of one of your speakers or one of your headphones instead of both.
So thank you, Remziye for spotting that. And yesterday our technical guru, Andrew had to work quite hard and have a few brainwaves, but he did manage to fix it. So hopefully we won't have any problems like that again, but if you spot something like that, please just email us and let us know. Usually we can sort it out. So hopefully we're coming to you in stereo today.
Today, I'm gonna talk to you about work and the workplace, but I'm also going to make some comments about some things that I see happening in the UK. And I'm wondering whether they're happening for you too. So hopefully this will make thought provoking and interesting listening. ' Thought provoking' means 'it makes you think'.
And while you and I are talking and thinking about the bigger picture, your brain will be learning lots of useful vocabulary about work and jobs and the workplace.
So one of the things that I notice at the moment is the amount of pressure that people feel they are under in their jobs. I get a sense of what's going on in the world, often from my clients. And I've had a number of clients recently talking about workplace pressure. 'Pressure', P R E S S U R E. 'Pressure' is a word that sometimes we might use in Physics. So pressure - it's how much something is being squeezed, if you like. You might measure pressure in Pascal or in Atmospheres, if you're a physicist. But when we use the word 'pressure' in normal life, we mean how much stress we're under, how much we have to rush, how much work we have to do, how much expectation there is on us.
If you are under pressure at work, it may be because you have a deadline. So 'deadline', D E A D L I N E - that's the point in time by which you need to have completed what you're doing. Deadlines are a normal part of the workplace. You can be expected to 'meet deadlines' in your job.
We might also talk about a 'hard deadline'. That means a deadline that cannot be missed. There are big problems, big implications, if you miss a 'hard deadline'. Another word we use quite a bit in the workplace is 'target', T A R G E T.
You might come across the word 'target' in other contexts, too. If you enjoy shooting or archery, that's A R C H E R Y, then you will be shooting at a target. So you'll be practising, trying to hit the target.
It's often round and it's got circles on it. And in archery, your target will be some way off and you're trying to hit it with your arrows. And the middle of a target is called a 'bullseye', B U L L S E Y E. That means you hit it dead in the centre, a bullseye.
That's something you come across in the sport called Darts, which is a very British pub sport.
So 'deadlines' and 'targets' are common vocabulary in the British workplace. And you have different types of targets, perhaps. You might have 'sales targets', you have to sell a certain amount of something in order to reach your target.
You may have 'performance targets'. So about the level of service that you give or how productive you are, that's a 'performance target'.
And where this works, this system of targets, often you are offered a reward for hitting your target. That's R E W A R D. So 'a reward' is the noun - that's what you're given and 'to reward someone' means that you 'give them a reward'. In the workplace, a reward might be some food, a treat, a meal. It might be a day off.
It might also be a promotion or it might be 'a bonus'. That's B O N U S. A 'bonus' is an extra payment of money that you get for doing your job well, for performing well under pressure. For meeting your targets, you might get your bonus. So you're rewarded with money, and who wouldn't want to be rewarded in that way?
All of those things are perhaps fair enough, but I think what we're moving towards in the UK increasingly is a 'performance culture' or a 'target-driven culture', where everything has performance targets and where people in their jobs are really under, quite a lot of pressure to hit their targets, to hit their performance indicators or to hit their deadlines.
It's understandable. If you're an employer, if you're an organization that has employees, you want people to be productive. You want them to work well. You perhaps want them to be ambitious as well. If you reward people who work hard, maybe that's fair enough. And I would agree with that, but in a moment, I'm gonna talk to you about something which I see as problematic in this area. And this is the interesting bit. This is the bit where I share an opinion with you.
Before I do that, just a reminder of our Most Common 500 Words Course. If you find that you're enjoying the podcast, but they're a bit of a challenge, they're difficult for you to understand and it takes you a long time, you may well benefit from this course. It literally goes through the 500, most commonly used words in English, and it anchors them in your vocabulary.
It makes them stick in your mind. And this is good for a number of reasons. It makes understanding much easier. Particularly in spoken English, we tend to use 10 little words instead of two big ones. We like lots of little words in spoken English and often they're the most common words. That course is a good use of your time.
OK. What do I think of performance culture? Well, my impression is increasingly in the UK it feels like it's gone too far. There are organizations who routinely and openly expect their employees to do extra hours, many extra hours. These employees may be evaluated, may be judged on whether or not they've done 125% of their hours - 25% extra hours may be needed in order for them to be seen as 'succeeding in their role'.
And if someone just does 100% of their expected hours, this may be seen as them 'failing' or 'not being ambitious' in their job. And bonuses and rewards may depend upon you doing these extra hours. 25% is a lot of extra hours.
A medical staff member sits in a hospital corridor having worked to exhaustion. If you start work in the UK today, there are many new English words and phrases you will hear and in this podcast we will explain them.
If you are in a professional role, then your promotion may depend upon you doing these extra hours. It's only if you do the extra hours that you will get promoted. So the noun is 'promotion', P R O M O T I O N. That's when you go to the next level of job. And 'to be promoted' or 'to give someone a promotion' - that's the verb associated with it.
What I find difficult to reconcile is at the same time, there is a movement going on in many organizations where they're talking about mental health, mental wellbeing and work life balance. Organizations are emphasizing work life balance. You must have a satisfying work life, but you must also leave enough time to have other aspects of life too, so that you're in a mentally good place. You must spend time with friends and family, do leisure activities, go on holiday, relax in your time off so that you are 'well-rounded' and ready to do your job again when you come back to work.
Some private companies even give lessons in work life balance. The problem is if at the same time they're expecting their employees to do a 50, a 60 or even a 70 hour week regularly.
My experience tells me that if you do a 70 hour week, that is a big risk to your mental and to your physical health. So on the one hand talking about good mental health and good work life balance, and yet expecting people to work very long hours, that doesn't go together for me. That feels like hypocrisy on the part of many organizations!
If you're in a professional role, many organizations are very clear about expecting you to do additional hours. Other organizations though, are less overt, less open about this. What they do is 'pile the work on'. They give you much, much more work than you can actually accomplish in your normal hours, in your contracted hours.
So what happens is that the employee feels bad, feels as though they're not performing. So they put in many, many more hours than their contract says that they should, in order to have a chance of completing all their work.
The danger here is that the employee starts to blame themselves or they are seen as 'not performing'. And no one's really looking at the amount of work they've been given and whether it's possible to complete it in the time.
If you're in that type of job that might be considered 'professional', where you've passed exams, you've got qualifications, you've worked up to getting to that level, then promotion is the reward that is offered, if you do the long hours, if you put the time in, if you hit your targets.
But what about people who are in less skilled jobs? If you work in a less skilled job, say you work in a factory or a supermarket or in hospital cleaning services, you've still got performance culture. You've still got targets. You're still under pressure.
Are you being offered a promotion if you work hard? No, possibly not. But what you may face is the threat that you lose your job, if you don't hit your performance targets. That's even worse!
In one sense, if the targets are reasonable and the targets are fair, this just protects the employer. It makes sure that they're getting good value for money from their employees. But actually if the targets are unrealistic, if they're unfair and there's a threat that a person could lose their job, that becomes a much more negative and damaging thing.
And another word that's crept into this conversation. A perfectly good word normally, but it's acquiring a use I don't like! And that word is 'resilience', R E S I L I E N C E. That's the noun and the adjective is 'resilient', R E S I L I E N T. That word means 'difficult to break, difficult to damage, difficult to destroy'. And it's a perfectly good word, but it's now being used by organizations and employers as a desired quality, something that they want to see in their employees. They want to see that their staff are 'resilient'.
'Resilient' in this context means that your physical and your mental health are good, so that if we want to put you under pressure and make you work long hours and hit difficult-to-achieve performance targets, you'll be OK!
What I really don't like is that underneath this dialogue is the idea that if an employee finds something difficult, if they struggle with their workload or they find it difficult to meet a deadline or a performance target, we need to look at their mental health and their 'resilience'.
I don't like this conversation because I think what it does is take away the focus from the employer. It takes away the idea that maybe what the person is being asked to do is too much or is unreasonable. It means we're not going to talk about that. We're going to put any responsibility for 'not performing' firmly on the shoulders of the employee. 'They need to work on their resilience. That's where the problem lies'. This makes me angry. I don't think it's fair. It's not good working practice to me.
In this podcast, you've got some really good vocabulary about jobs and the workplace and common pieces of language that we use around that. You've also got my comments and my opinion on something that I see happening in the UK.
I know it's around in the US as well and I'm interested to know, is this happening in your job in your company, in your country too? Let us know. We love to hear from you.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
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