One-Minute Book Reviews

January 8, 2007

A Guide to Managing Employees From Hell

Filed under: Book Reviews,Books,How to — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:41 pm

What to do when the people who work for you don’t work out as expected

A Survival Guide to Managing Employees From Hell: Handling Idiots, Whiners, Slackers and Other Workplace Demons. By Gini Graham Scott. Amacom/American Management Association, 230 pp., $15, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Not long ago, Computerworld magazine ran an article about high-tech mavericks, including a female programmer who sometimes came to work in a Girl Scout uniform or cheerleading outfit. That’s one definition of “an employee from hell.”

As any manager knows, there are plenty of others. The slowpoke who’s been working on the same project since the Clinton administration. The friend of the boss who’s incompetent but too well connected to fire. The complainer who gripes every day about how far the parking lot is from the office.

Books that deal with situations like these typically have one of several problems. They may come from celebrities who dole out common sense and act as though they’ve decoded the Rosetta Stone. They may patronize you with lots of CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation points!!! Or they may peddle one-size-fits-all advice that’s too general to help with the complex and varied problems that managers have to solve.

The American Management Association seems to have recognized all of this and has come out with a book that aims to avoid such problems. Gini Graham Scott’s A Survival Guide to Managing Employees From Hell is a no-nonsense paperback that devotes a section to each of more than two dozen types of workplace saboteurs, including “the prima donna,” “the impossible intern,” and “the negative Nelly or Ned.” Each chapter provides a one- or two-page anonymous case study of a different kind of difficult employee. Then it lists possible ways of handling the situation, tells what the manager did, and gives tips on dealing with similar people.

Some of the advice has appeared in many other guides for managers (“set clear boundaries”). And the book doesn’t always avoid repackaging conventional business wisdom. But A Survival Guide to Managing Employees from Hell is much more useful and less sugar-coated than such recent books as The Power of Nice. An implicit theme is that the chocolates-and-compliments approach doesn’t always work. Sometimes you just have to fire those employees from hell, and this book suggests when it’s time to take away their pitchforks.

Best line: “Many bad employees would create problems in any situation or workplace. But sometimes what makes for a difficult employee in one working culture – such as a loner in a highly social, team-player environment – may make for a highly productive and valuable employee in another setting.”

Worst line (tie): “Consider possible options and outcomes.” And “Decide on the best option by weighing positives and negatives …” These are examples of the common sense dressed up in the stilted business jargon that the book mostly avoids.

Publication: January 2007

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


  1. If wearing a cheerleader uniform to work is a problem, maybe we need a book on dealing with uptight managers from hell. Sigh.

    For a fact-based version of this, try “The No Asshole Rule” by Bob Sutton. He does covers actually harmful behavior instead of personal style issues.

    Comment by wunderwood — January 18, 2007 @ 3:46 pm | Reply

  2. Wunderwood: You don’t think that personal style matters in certain industries, especially conservative ones? Daily newspapers, where I’ve worked, have much looser dress codes than many other employers. (Some people would say I’m being charitable with that “looser.”) But even at newspapers, you can’t interview city council members wearing a cheerleading outfit. Jan

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — January 18, 2007 @ 11:05 pm | Reply

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