Challenges at work

Listen to four people talking about different business challenges to practise and improve your listening skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then listen to the audio and do the exercises.



I'll never forget the first time I met our new contact from Retrolink, one of our top five customers. I had travelled to their office to meet him in person, talk about the history of our companies together and define a shared vision for future co-operation. I wanted to focus on building a good relationship with him which would be a good foundation for working together.

So, when we met I wanted to make a good impression and also show him respect. I greeted him with a handshake and addressed him by his surname. When I put my hand out I realised he had been moving in to give me a hug, so we did an awkward mixture of the two! Also, when I greeted him by his surname, he responded politely, though he used my first name. It was all a little uncomfortable.

In this situation, I guess I made assumptions about the level of formality he expected. Even though he had never met me before, he knew our two companies had been doing business with each other for years and he wanted to build on that history by being less formal with me from the beginning. The real learning here for me was that I shouldn't assume we all have the same ideas about meeting people for the first time.


I'd never worked with a virtual team on an international project before. It was quite exciting, though also challenging to work with people from different countries, many of whom I would never actually get to meet in person. There were a lot of things that were different about working in the same office and it was quite challenging at the beginning.

For example, there were different time zones, different IT systems and even different local regulations, which impacted on what each person was allowed to, or able to, do for the project.

There were also interpersonal differences, such as different ways of working, approaches to deadlines and when to reply to emails. And we shouldn't forget the fact that English was the project language and that most people on the team had to work in a language which wasn't their first. A positive of this was that it meant that everyone, including the native English speakers, had to make the effort to communicate clearly and clarify their own and everyone else's understanding.

To help us all get on the same page, we defined the communication norms and the rules the team would follow, as well as the meeting dates and deadlines. We laid this all out in a document called a team or project charter. This was really useful and in the end the project was a great success. I'm looking forward to working on my next international project.


I went through a bit of a rough patch last year at work. I was already committed to too much and then we lost a team member through restructuring and I quickly became overloaded. This led to me doing too much overtime and feeling very stressed. My boss was really helpful and she pushed back against the unrealistic targets that had been set for our department. She also introduced me to the smart approach to goal setting. It's an acronym, S-M-A-R-T. You use it to create goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

I used this approach to deal with all of the things that were overloading me. It helped me to prioritise some tasks, to do some later and to drop some completely.

I often use this approach now and feel much more in control of my time and workload.


Have you ever missed a flight or had one cancelled? I did. It happened to me last week. My flight home from a business trip was the last one of the day and we were told it was going to be delayed. That's always a risk at the end of each day. The ground crew kept extending the delay until eventually they cancelled the flight completely. They then told us to go back through the airport to the departures area to talk to their agent who would organise hotels for everyone and rebook us on the following day's flight.

As soon as they made the announcement about the cancellation, I knew I had to think quickly as it would not be likely that the flight would have capacity to take everyone from my cancelled flight. I hurried back through the airport and was one of the first to make it to the desk. That turned out to be a good idea, as there were only nine seats available on the flight the next morning. Everyone else had to fly to a different airport and then continue back to our destination airport in coaches. Lucky me! Right?

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Worksheet119.1 KB

Language level

C1 English level (advanced)

Submitted by jmajo on Wed, 22/06/2022 - 15:35


Yes I do, I face challenges once or two times in a week when some service goes down and I have to find a solution quickly or when I am asked for a consult related with the use of some of the function in one of our systems that I’ve never used before and I need to investigate the best way to use it.
Most of the times I can find a solution by myself researching on the documentation that we have, but some times I have to search on the internet or ask for support on the provider if we can’t solve it on our

Thanks for the episode.
Great site!

Submitted by Aisuluu on Fri, 15/04/2022 - 09:39


Do you ever face challenges at work? How do you overcome them?
At the beginning of my career as an intern, I faced challenges that eventually led me to a stress state. This was my first experience in office work, and office operations, every process was new to me, and my supervisor had not much time to teach me, so I had to learn and complete tasks on the go. But now I am grateful for this experience that is still actual in my current job.

Submitted by Mariana133 on Mon, 14/03/2022 - 20:07


I work as a purchasing manager and it is vital for me and for a company itself to communicate effectively with sales department. However, some misunderstandings sometimes occur as it is quite common that customers are not satisfied with quotations. In turn, sales managers blame purchasing deprtments for not being able to buy a particular product for lower cost and therefore offer rock-bottom price. As a rule, cost of a product is directly associated with quality. Therefore, I striving to monitor whether the same product can be low-priced indeed and negotiate with my supplier directly.

Submitted by Suraj paliwal on Fri, 15/10/2021 - 09:55


Yes, I'm facing lots of challenges in study as I'm very lazy and I sleeping most time. I'm trying to overcome this.

Submitted by RuthYong on Thu, 14/10/2021 - 08:48


Yes, it is common for most employees to face challenges at work. I am currently teaching online to the refugees and some local students. Sometimes, they wouldn't show up and tend to give excuses. I would normally face those challenges with an open mind and talk to my supervisor. I would also constantly remind my students to have self-discipline. The important thing is to do my best.

Submitted by fridagomezl on Tue, 12/10/2021 - 10:59


I have had a lot of face challenges since I work as a psychology, one example is when I have to pay attention to every detail that gives me each patient and I feel antipathetic at that day, so I have to be kind and try to figure out no matter what, try to put a good face and work in.

Submitted by Diogo1606 on Sat, 27/03/2021 - 19:17

Yes, I do! When I first get on the job, I used to feel stressed by the challenges, like take a bus late on the night. But my job was temporary, so I just faced all of the challenges and tried to do my best to not being fired, because I really needed the job in the period.
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Submitted by El Cuy Mágico on Tue, 16/02/2021 - 20:35

Sure, I was working as a Dj in virtual partys events company last year and the worst challenge I faced to was the internet signal. As in my city it’s raining constantly, the internet doesn’t flow as I’d like. It used to be quite awkward when the virtual party had to be stopped because my internet was slow. I really hated it.
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Submitted by Riza on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 07:22

I constantly face some challenges at work, and sometimes they are really stressful and frustrating. I used to get dissapointed at once, however nowadays I am more calm and looking for some positive sides. Also I've become more patient at wether difficulties might appear throughout my work time. For example, the last time I could remember is that how I was looking for the series of books though the Internet and was completely upset with no results to find them. But after some thinking period I have decided to ask on social media and via forums for the teachers who might have these books to share with me. And with such collobaration I was able to find what I need and build my own lesson using the materials which some of my colleages generously gave me.
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Submitted by Aghaton on Mon, 12/10/2020 - 10:01

Thank you for this discussion question team. I am actually personally facing some challenges at work. One of the biggest challenges here that I want to share with you my colleague is multi-task. The thing that troubles me here is when I have to study my online course and at the same time doing my responsibility as a worker. This is so challenges. Well, I guess I have to use some techniques like speaker C.

Submitted by mcambindo22 on Thu, 01/10/2020 - 22:16

I had found challenges at work but I always have overcome with hard-working. Frequently when I have tricky situations I ask to my collegues about it and requesting a feedback searching better ways to resolve problems or even how I can do better the work align with the company goals. Challenges at work are the fuel to develop and to improve to be more competitive, harnessing all things around you.

Submitted by Vixy on Mon, 14/09/2020 - 08:36

The biggest challenge for me is working on 4-5 projects at the same time. It’s very tiring always being up to date and ready to talk about the details of the given project. Prioritization of tasks is essential to avoid stress and overloading - as the speaker C has mentioned it in this listening excersise.
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Submitted by SmartyArun on Sat, 13/06/2020 - 15:42

Yeah I did face a big challenge once at my workplace, When one of our premier client contact my colleague at his desk but he was on leave that day. The client was looking for an urgent report, in my colleague's absence I gotta handle it upon my Manager's request. Fortunately for me, all the data required were in place and i was able to prepare the report on my own and sent it to the client on time that made him so happy. The positive outcome I got the hang of preparing a new report that day thanks to my colleague!!
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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Tue, 19/05/2020 - 01:29

Yes. I did. I overcame the challenges by being persistent and acting quickly.

Submitted by Dandyno on Sat, 09/05/2020 - 10:11

The very first question at the begining of section D, "Have you ever missed a flight or had one cancelled?" surely the answer has to be "I have" not "I did" right?

Hello Dandyno

'I did' is correct here. It would also be fine to use a present perfect form, but it's very common for people to answer a question about their life experience using a past simple form. The question is very open-ended, but since the speaker is often thinking of a specific past time in their answer, many times they will use a past simple form.

As you can see, the choice of verb form depends on how the speaker views the action they are speaking about.

Hope this helps.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Diegoratti90 on Fri, 24/04/2020 - 08:15

I face challenges at work every day. I work in a big architectural design studio in Milan city. Speaking about my work activity we submit deadline for delivering project and we are called to work in a team group, with also consultant engineers and other people. Today is more challenging than in the past since the fact technologies, products and new standard in architectural branch of study, require you to always be updated and open minded toward new solutions in the market. At the moment the most difficult challenge I face is unrealistic deadlines. A project which should be done by 4 people in a realistic time of 6 months is constricted in half time and you will be probably asked to cooperate in several projects!!! The result: endless and stressful daily job, 10-11 hours/day working activity,. It's an unfair game where bosses overstress their workers to increase their own profit!

Submitted by hrahmani on Wed, 29/01/2020 - 16:18

I frequently face the rigid submission deadlines as part of my job. They are usually the deadlines for submitting the funding requests. The submission is online for all of them and is closed at the given time. Normally, I start preparing a proposal around two weeks time before the deadline. This is a fair amount of time required for the preparation. However, I am collaborating with other colleagues who are located in other countries. This means I need their comments and agreement on the proposal. This is the tricky part as their responses come at different times and even sometimes just an hour before the deadline. Hence, simultaneously, handling their comments, avoiding typos due to that last minutes rush and conserving the coherent message of the proposal become really challenging!

Submitted by Mahmoud Samir on Wed, 11/12/2019 - 16:24

yeah alot, one of my frequent challenge at work that my working time isn't fixed; so i have to deal with this variation and go on with everything, it makes me get exhausted sometimes but i should do my work propely

Submitted by Persepolis on Wed, 13/11/2019 - 10:47

hello, could you please tell me how t download the audios?

Hi Persepolis,

I'm afraid the audio is only accessible on the page and cannot be downloaded.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Persepolis, you can download the audio. Right click over the player and select the option "save audio as", that is in firefox (English language) but another browsers have similar features.
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Submitted by Hoàng Nhung on Wed, 21/08/2019 - 08:35

I do face challenges at work but it is ok. Everytime, I feel sad or stress, I go out for walk or I go to pagoda to pray. I also chatting with my friend about my difficult time. I love my job so the challenges at work is nothing with me.

Submitted by ADELE on Fri, 26/07/2019 - 14:21

Thank for this topic it was very interesting i have learnt more about.
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Submitted by Jorge Varryga on Sat, 29/06/2019 - 07:01

It was a useful topic, thanks .

Submitted by Ely Princess on Fri, 24/05/2019 - 12:08

Permit me begin by thanking you for this lesson. It is inspiring and motivating. As an assistant to a Chairman, I face challenges of various types. First as a young woman, secondly as the assistant to the chairman and last but not the least as an individual with a competence that overpowers the job I currently undertake. In the first case, I am a young woman who respects herself and thus respect others. If at any point in a relationship I feel uneasy, I will simply withdraw politely. In the second case, everyday I thrive to meet up with the expectations and go beyond. In the last case, I created a sphere were I mingle my background in international communication and public action with my job as assistant to the chairman to create a greater impact. It is not always an easy task but I do my optimum best everyday. Thanks again for this lesson.

Submitted by VyacheslavKr on Fri, 03/05/2019 - 11:31

Thank you once more. I like this lesson very much. And I enjoy British English.