Managing Employees from Hell: A Self-Assessment

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 24, 2020

By AMA Staff

Unfortunately, nearly all managers find themselves saddled with "problem" employees from time to time. What sets great managers apart is how they deal with them. In her new book, A Survival Guide to Managing Employees from Hell: Handling Idiots, Whiners, Slackers, and Other Workplace Demons, Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., offers strategies for dealing with the gamut of challenging employees—“Negative Ned,” “The Sensitive Soul,” “The Prima Donna,” “Liar, Liar,” and many more.

Before you can devise an effective action plan to deal with the problem, says Scott, you first have to determine, “How bad is my employee?” The following self-assessment, from Scott’s Survival Guide, will help you rate your situation so you can put things into proper perspective. Perhaps your employee is problematic in some ways, but valuable in others. It’s up to you to determine whether or not the employee’s positive contributions outweigh the negatives.

Take the Self-Assessment

Rate your employee or employees on a scale from 0–4 on each question below. Add up the total, then refer to the scoring key at the end to see how your employee or team rates.


1. My employee is too aggressive in the way he/she deals with me or others in the office; he/she is a bully and is always arguing with me and others.
2. My employee is arrogant and insulting to me and others in the office.
3. My employee is often insubordinate, standing up to me and acting like he/she knows the best way to do something and I don’t.
4. My employee doesn’t take orders well; he/she often doesn’t follow directions or goes off and does the wrong thing on his/her own.
5. My employee seems to be mentally unstable or part of a culture of violence and I’m afraid of disciplining or firing him/her.
6. My employee is a prima donna who is trying to take charge of and control other employees.


7. My employee is often incompetent; he/she makes many mistakes, is very disorganized, and has trouble learning how to do the job correctly.
8. My employee has claimed to have certain skills, but in fact, doesn’t know what he/she doesn’t know.
9. My employee is a know-it-all who tries to show off and lords it over others in the office, contributing to bad morale.
10. My employee is a real slow-poke, taking too long to get the job done.
11. My employee is a lazy goof-off, who takes lots of time off, including long lunch breaks.
12. My employee can’t deal with stress and high-pressure situations; he/she can’t handle multi-tasking, falls apart, and can’t do the job.


13. My employee is overly sensitive and emotional, so it is hard for me or others to relate to him/her or correct any poor performance.
14. My employee brings all kinds of personal problems to the office and these problems are interfering with his/her work.
15. My employee is a busybody and gossip who pays too much attention to what others are doing and talks too much about other people, and may even be sharing private information about the company or me.
16. My employee has a problem with alcohol or drugs.
17. My employee calls in sick a lot.


18. I have caught my employee in a number of lies, such as telling lies to cover up mistakes, appear better than he/she is, or claim to have done something when he/she hasn’t.
19. My employee has been stealing from the company and I have recently caught him/her doing this.
20. My employee repeatedly makes promises about what he/she will or can do by when, but then often doesn’t keep these promises.
21. My employee frequently takes credit for others’ work, so I think he/she is better than he/she really is.
22. I believe my employee is involved in criminal activities off the job.


23. My employee acts like he/she understands me, but really doesn’t, and then does the work incorrectly.
24. My employee is always complaining and griping about everything to others, and it is undermining office morale and everyone’s productivity.
25. My employee is difficult to talk to and understand because he/she talks in a highly technical language or is vague when he/she tries to explain anything.



26. My employee has been using office equipment and supplies for personal activities and engaging in personal activities on the job.
27. My employee has been promoting his/her own business activities to company employees or at company events.
28. My employee can’t keep a secret and share confidential information with other employees.
29. My employee engages in suggestive comments, staring, joking, groping, or other inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace, making other employees uncomfortable.
30. My employee doesn’t get along with other employees; he/she just isn’t a team player, although he/she does a good job.



Now add your own reasons for why an employee is difficult and add that total to the score.

Rating System

Think of the results of this quiz like a ship’s manifest report that can help you deal with the different types of employees you’ll encounter during your cruise through the sometimes smooth and sometimes choppy seas of the workplace. It’s a guide to the overall difficult of working with one or more of your employees. The lower the score, the better your employees are to work with; the higher the score, the more they cause problems in your company. Use the results to help assess how bad your employee or employees really are and what you can do about it. Keep in mind that when figuring out how to deal with a particular employee, there are usually several possible alternatives in any given situation. In addition, the best solution for you may be different from what it might be for someone else in a similar situation or in a different workplace.

0–10: You have a great employee or team of employees. Are you really sure they are that great?

10–19: Generally, you’ve got a good employee or set of employees. There are just a few rough spots here and there.

20–29: You are starting to have difficulties with bad employees, but try to work through your problems before you give up the ship.

30–39: You’ve got serious problems with your crew or a particularly bad employee. Time to seriously deal with your problems or consider firing one or more employees.

40–49: S.O.S.! S.O.S.! You could be in for a crash with your current crew.

60 A sinking ship! This is definitely a disaster. Get ready to pull out the lifeboats and abandon ship, or take on an emergency crew to stay afloat.

Read a sample chapter from A Survival Guide to Managing Employees from Hell.

About The Author(s)

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.