Why a PWC PricewaterhouseCoopers partner quit the Barbados office and went home to Canada

Bad Barbados or a person ill-suited for a foreign posting? We think it’s the later.

Canadian Elaine Sibson came to Barbados in January 2007 to run PWC’s tax practice. She lasted only six months before pulling the ejection seat handles and blasting off the island. Now she’s done an interview with a Canadian newspaper telling what went wrong.

After reading “Dark Days in Barbados” by the Globe Mail newspaper, we at BFP think that the title is very unfair.

“In the office, things were like they were 15 years ago. You tried to change something and they go right back to the way they did it before. I went to a conference in San Francisco on doing business in China, and came back with a lot of printed material. I gave it to a secretary to put it in a binder and it took a day and a half. She punched every page individually.”

Former PWC Barbados head Elaine Sibson in the Globe Mail article Dark Days in Barbados

I’ll sum up the article like this…

1/ Bajans were nice and friendly on the job, but after work Ms. Sibson got lonely.

2/ She couldn’t take the Bajan lack of productivity and unwillingness to accept and implement change.

While I understand point #2 about the lack of productivity and unwillingness to change, I wonder if Ms. Sibson really gave it a good effort on the after work social life. I can’t imagine Bajans not inviting her to share in so many social events if they had of only known how lonely she was.

It sounds to me like Ms. Sibson is a nice lady but she wasn’t a good choice for a foreign posting. As so many Bajans who have moved over and away will tell you: it takes real work, effort and commitment to develop friends when you are a newly arrived immigrant so far from home.

Good luck to Ms. Sibson, but I’m sure that her interview in the Globe and Mail is not a fair recounting of her time in Barbados.

29 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Business & Banking, Culture & Race Issues

29 responses to “Why a PWC PricewaterhouseCoopers partner quit the Barbados office and went home to Canada

  1. Jack Bowman

    First, primary, unbreakable rule for expats anywhere: it is your job to adapt to the local environment, because the local environment is NOT going to adapt to you.

    The Globe and Mail piece is a non-item as far Barbados is concerned. It says vastly more about the interviewee than about Barbados.

  2. BFP

    Our thoughts exactly Jack, but we also know that if we put a piece out there with her name in it – Elaine Sibson – Barbados Free Press has a large enough Google rating that we’ll come up near the Globe and Mail article on a search and provide some balance.

    See? We just put her name in a comment in bold and that will catch the eye of the search engines too! We know how this stuff works. 🙂

  3. bimjim

    From what I read, it sounds like this Superior Entitled One from the Me First generation made no effort at all, just “came home to an empty apartment”… were Bajans supposed to provide her with a social life?

    And if she had stayed in Canada, would she not also have “come home to an empty apartment” there too?

    So a secretary punched the pages one at a time..,. did she say “stop wasting time, punch five or more at a time!”… no, she called her boss in Canada and said “I don’t think I can do this…”

    What a wuss. And she was a partner in PwC?

    Is the Canadian part of that company full of a$$-kissers and is she completely incompetent without a bowing and scraping, up-to-date staff – with Degrees in Domestic Science, no less?

    And the quintessential professional question: Did she leave the position she asked for, and was awarded, better than she found it? No, she walked away, quit, the pressure was too great – in friendly Barbados, no less!!! Maybe she could not find enough fellow-Superior Entitled Ones to stimulate her Greed Juices…

    Hopefully PwC does not have too many more Superior Entitled Ones where she came from.

    Hopefully next time they appoint someone to the Barbados office it will be someone who is willing to get out and socialise after work, instead of waiting for the whole island to kiss their Royal Fat Superior Entitled A$$.

  4. Donald Duck Esq

    What happened to the person who was there before and after her?

  5. Interesting

    Listen this is so typical for expats everyone goes through it unless you activity and socialize yourself to death! This woman sounds like a dud…Dark Days in Barbados, what kind of journalism is that, seriously??? She wimped out because you need to give yourself 6 mos to a year to adapt and then re-evaluate the situation. I went through all of this and even divorce– let me tell you, no way, no how am I ever leavin Barbados. I love it so…

  6. first of all let me lay down the law.

    barbadian workers are afforded certain privileges that no other country has.

    yuh dus get a break time and a lunch time:::

    break time – 15 min…just like at school – “but dis ain school nah more” – i does tell de people straight. if yuh wan get salary yuh hafta wuk through brek and lunch, and hell; overtime too.

    or don ask fuh no salary …tek hour wage.

    lunch time – in most cases some bajan executives, and you know who you are.. does tek 3 hour lunches. yuh does see them daily at champers/wispers eating away our lovely tax paying dollars.

    so dis waht i does wan know.

    if we giving you brek and lunch what do you thin we want in return.

    we want WUK.. not hard wuk… use yuh BRAIN wuk.

    if yuh cant use yuh brain. don bother apply.

    “and PWC buy a bloody multi hole puncher. they sell them at brydens, 3 hole multi page punchers, quite an easy thing to operate.”

    I aint no clerk, but im sure with my half a brain I can get 350 pages punched in 30 mins.

  7. Anon1

    BFP

    Why don’t you read the article before commenting. I have just read the article at the Global Mail and it is more about Elaine Sibson’s career, lifestyle, personal challenges etc. than it is about Barbados. The title of the Mail’s article is extremely misleading.

  8. dismanhey

    uh? you guys should read rusty 1003 comments.

  9. Old Foghorn

    Definitely title misleading, definitely lady was not suited for posting.

    Interesting that she was ‘close to retirement’, possibly she was ‘retired out’ here anyway, sent here as a gratis, with no further updward movement in the Canadian firm. Interesting how many expats come here in the late forties/ early fifties, to work till retirement …’retirement job’.

    Clearly, missing family and noting long hours, she did not understand what she was getting into.

    Sad that her position within the firm determines her identity quoting… (‘you come back and say, “Who am I?” It’s like an identity crisis. It was almost worse than giving up a marriage. Your whole being is identified with who you are [in the firm]. ‘).

    That says a lot about her outlook.

    But, wish her the best and advise firms in future to find the best person for a job, not just to ‘retire out’ people or stick a round peg in a square hole.

    That never works and results in unsuitable people in a job that they cannot cope with.

    But, corporations are woefully managed, really.

  10. BFP

    Hi Anon1

    We did read the entire article. If our take on it doesn’t suit, well – that’s why it’s called a participatory blog. Everybody gets their say and strangely enough we often find that our opinion on something is not always the best or the one we still have after everybody has had a little discussion.

    Your blog would probably be different than ours though. Much better ideas and always write. opps. right. 😉

  11. bimjim

    OK, let’s read the real words…

    “I was a partner for PwC for years and I kind of got bored. I went to the partners and said, “I want a change.” I had just recently divorced. The opportunity came up to run the tax practice in Barbados.”

    No, she was not “farmed out” to a tropical paradise as a pre-retirement gift, she looked for and CHOSE to take the position in Barbados. It was HER decision, not that of the other partners.

    “It was amazing. I found a gorgeous apartment right on the water and moved down in January 2007.”

    Right… she found exactly what she wanted, and moved in. Nobody forced her to take any old shack, and it was probably a place any Bajan would have to pay a full mortgage every month for. But PwC was picking up the tab. No sweat there.

    “I got up in the morning to go swimming and came home at night to go swimming. The pool was right down below my condo.”

    Swimming, swimming, swimming. I don’t see any mention of efforts at socialising – with locals, or ex-pats, or anybody else.

    “But it is a very lonely, lonely existence. I was fine for the first two months, and I really loved the work, although the hours were long. The people were nice but when the work was over, you went home to an empty apartment.”

    Yeah… but if she had moved 4 hours away to Toronto instead, she could have done exactly the same thing, In that environment would she have had the cojones to go to the Globe and Mail and tell them that Toronto was boring and she could not live there?

    And where was the daughter in all of this loneliness?

    The woman is an idiot. ANYbody who wants to have company in Barbados can find out where and when from associates, clients, bartenders, store managers or even a man in the street, and just turn up, sit down, and buy a beer. Somebody will soon be chatting to them.

    I used to hang out at Salt Ash, in the Dover area. I was there three weeks ago, and it’s still a place – like more than a thousand other places in Barbados – where anybody of any background can sit down and somebody will start a conversation. Over the years I hung out there I saw spooling-down undercover cops, airline pilots, government ministers, managers of all levels, pop stars, the list goes on.

    This woman obviously needs constant attention from trained and fawning employees to have a “social life”.

    Globe and Mail should have dug a bit deeper and not have been so misleading, but that’s a paper made for the Entitled Ones and we should not expect anything better than for them to sail on with the story and that headline.

  12. Checkit-Out

    I agree with Anon-1. There was minimal coverage of Barbados in the article which was titled “Dream Jobs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be” not “Dark days in Barbados” unless they’ve changed the title.

    Indeed, except for the story of the secretary punching one page at a time which seems totally impossible and was almost certainly hyperbole, the article was on balance quite complimentary to Barbados.

  13. BFP

    Globe and Mail changed the title of the online piece in response to numerous online comments from Bajans. The print (dead tree) copies still say “Dark Days in Barbados” and were distributed across Canada and the USA.

    We’ll have an article up shortly.

  14. Johnny Postle

    Can someone tell me why she choose to give an interview. The headlines alone was intended to paint Barbados ugly even though the content was not about Barbados period. I would not even waste my time commenting on this woman. It is quite obvious that she came to ‘Bim’ looking for her every need to be cater too. Guess she did not realise that a social life was her responsibility and making friends certainly is no fault of anyone but herself.

  15. 13

    The lady is in midlife, had recently been divorced, alone, in a strange country with a teenage daughter. She would’ve been unhappy wherever she was. You call it a mid-life crisis not an identity crisis. I’m surprised that one of the local lads didn’t help her get her groove back!

  16. BFP

    Hi 13,

    I was thinking the same thing myself. Not a bad looker for her age! 🙂

    Cliverton

  17. Pingback: Globe and Mail changes misleading website headline – print edition still proclaims “Dark Days in Barbados” « Barbados Free Press

  18. Duppy Lizard

    Don’t you guys think this is over reaction? Talk about being “touchy” or suffering from an inferiority complex!

    I fail to see how the original headline reflected badly on Barbados.

    The Globe and Mail must have had a good laugh at you people – they must have thought “Oh! the poor dears, lets change the headline and bolster their self esteem”.

    The lady came from Halifax, not exactly a booming metropolis. Nova Scotians are very friendly people, and for anyone who has ever visited would find striking similarities to Barbados especially in the Cape Breton area (I am talking culturally).

    Fitting into Barbadian society (especially if you are white and a woman) is very difficult.

    It’s not long before you realise the delusion of living on a tropical island.

  19. Rumboy.

    Duppy Lizard – the most intelligent comment pertaining to this. Especially liked the one which states that a local lad could have helped her out. Comical to say the least but press on as I find it amusing.

  20. Donald Duck Esq

    How come the Barbados office of PwC has said nothing on the matter? They must realise that what was said was true?

  21. bimjimmy

    “Don’t you guys think this is over reaction? Talk about being “touchy” or suffering from an inferiority complex!

    I fail to see how the original headline reflected badly on Barbados.”

    Duppy Lizard and Rumboy see nothing wrong with an Entitled newspaper for rich people making mincemeat of Barbados. The Globe and Mail is in the portfolio of the Rich And Entitled (but now imprisoned criminal) Conrad Black, in case you did not know… so why would PwC make any comment?

    From such points of view it seems it’s OK for rich people to cry down lesser and poorer countries – where they go to be catered to even more than normal by the poor subservient sub-humans there – so there’s the justification for businesses which are catering to the rich not to respond.

    Barbados has what is considered a superior tourism “product” in the world – high end, which people pay higher prices for. IMHO any Bajan who sees no problem with any international agency threatening that status with misleading headlines and information is also attacking the people and reputation of their own country.

    Apart from that, we as Bajans have a right to express our opposition and respond to such unsuitable accusations in the Press of a “developed country” (that’s what they call it, anyway – living here among them, I have quite a different opinion).

  22. RLL

    I disagree that BFP is attacking the woman. They were very fair in both articles. The BFP piece is about the yellow journalism of the Globe Mail newspaper sensationalizing and spinning a story that was not about the failings of Barbados or Bajans. The BFP story shows that when big media gets it wrong they can be pressured to correct the story. This is a story about bloggers holding the news media to account.

  23. Old Foghorn

    bimjim says – No, she was not “farmed out” to a tropical paradise as a pre-retirement gift, she looked for and CHOSE to take the position in Barbados. It was HER decision, not that of the other partners.

    You believe EVERYTHING that you read?

    I know the corporate world and know circumstances such as hers. She was most likely on her way out and yes, farmed out for the last bit to pre-retirement.

    Corporate world is full of fluff and dander, one has to read between the lines for the reality, even know how these things work.

    For example, ‘so and so has moved on to greener pastures’ LOL.

    Nah….. de man get fired!!!

    One needs a translation for corporate press releases, in truth.

  24. Sargeant

    Bimjimmy

    The Globe and Mail is in the portfolio of the Rich And Entitled (but now imprisoned criminal) Conrad Black, in case you did not know
    ******************************************
    That statement is incorrect, The G & M was largely owned by the late Ken Thomson ( Lord Thomson) who incidentally maintained a home in Barbados prior to his death. The corporate ownership is diverse though the Thomson family is its largest shareholder. Perhaps the writer was thinking of the National Post.

    Duppy Lizard

    Not surprising that Cape Breton displays some cultural similarities to Barbados, some Bajans settled there and worked in the coal mines. I have met a number of people from there ( two of whom I worked with) who told me their fathers/grandfathers were from Barbados. One lady wanted to know how she could research her family history since her Grandfather and father were both deceased but hadn’t passed on much information bout her family ties. The other lady said her father was a Cheltenham but didn’t know what area of Barbados he came from originally.

  25. John

    There is an area in St. Andrew called Cheltenhams, just as you exit Turner Hall Woods.

    Earliest record for a Cheltenham baptism or marriage is St. James, 1784 ….. but records are missing from some parishes so there may have been earlier ones.

  26. bimjim

    “One needs a translation for corporate press releases, in truth.”

    Beg your pardon, sir, as we say at home… this was no press release, it was the woman’s own words in an interview with the Globe and Mail newspaper. No “translation” needed.

    If she did not want people picking her story to pieces and defending Barbados maybe she should have taken the incident as just one chapter in her life that did not go well and move on. But she chose to take it to a newspaper well known for its upper crust readership and take shots at Barbados when it was her own self-centered and entitled attitude along which spoiled her experience.

    In response to the Canadian lady who married a Bajan, let me say that however you may view it, this is always a woman’s world, where the woman makes the choices. Because they grow up in a more independent world than Canadian men, Bajan men are usually have stronger personalities than Canadians, so perhaps a Canadian woman might have culture shock reaching Barbados and seeking such attitudes as an assault.

    “That statement is incorrect, The G & M was largely owned by the late Ken Thomson ( Lord Thomson)… Perhaps the writer was thinking of the National Post.”

    I stand corrected – thank you for the information.

    It might be slightly educational to note that here in Canada among the middle and lower classes, Conrad Black is seen for what he is – the Canadian “greed is good” version of the US movie, who lived – and after he has “done his time” will live – high on the hog in a world even most CEOs will never experience and stole sums most Ponzi schemers can only dream of.

    Wishy-washy Canadian regulators and lawmakers shook in their boots even to think of putting a stop to his thieving and diverting of other peoples’ money, but over the border law enforcement have no fear of such people and went after him.

    Researching Barbados genealogy is actually easier than researching genealogy in most of the other islands. There is a (free) resource named the Caribbean Surname Index where the researcher can leave their names and info and wait for a response…
    http://www.candoo.com/surnames/index.php

    The (free) IGI is composed of mega-millions of records around the world. Using this link they can search for that name in Barbados and do a reasonable job of putting a tree together…
    (IGI Custom Link – search by region)
    http://www.familysearch.org/eng/Search/frameset_search.asp?PAGE=igi/search_IGI.asp

    There is a set of about 6 books, some of which are still available on eBay, named “Barbados Records” by Joanne Macree Sanders, which is an transcription of a large percentage of recorded births, marriages and abstracts of wills.

    Apart from that, there are a small number of researchers in Barbados who could cover the Barbados Archives, the Barbados Museum Library and any number of other local resources for a reasonable fee.

    Warning: The person should NOT send money in any form to any of the institutions themselves to pay for research or copies of documents because all the stories I have heard in that area end up with the money disappearing.

  27. canadian journalist

    i read that story and didn’t get as offended as some of those who posted here. i think it comes out clear that the woman wasn’t in the right place- for her. my first thought after reading the story was to be jealous because i wish i was able to work full-time in barbados…

  28. Having read the article I have to say, I think you are being tough on Elaine.

    Having worked in Barbados and currently living overseas, her portrayal is not offensive, inadequate, or inaccurate.

    The fact that one secretary decided to whole-punch a set of papers individually was the only thing which intimated some kind of inadequacy. She didn’t claim that it was reflective of Barbados at large.

    Most of her comments are limited to life at PWC in Barbados, and her personal journey. Bajans generally should not take offence. The fact that the commercial life in Barbados is a little slower, and a little behind ‘developed countries’ is why people love our country. It is inherent in “island life.”

    We can either be Singapore, or we can be Barbados. The fact that we at home take life a little slower is why people would give anything to retire there.

    Coming from the ‘fast lane’, maybe it wasn’t suitable for Elaine. However, I think you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who likened Barbados to the fast-paced “City Life.” And I think you’d be harder pressed to find people who would want to.

    It’s just not who we are, and that’s not an insult.

  29. Donald Duck Esq,

    Remember the bajan saying. There is more in the mortar than just the pestle.