a piece of work

a piece of work

A remarkably difficult, malicious, unpleasant, or objectionable person. Boy, our new boss is a real piece of work. Remind me to stay out of her way! I hear Amy's boyfriend is a piece of work.
See also: of, piece, work
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

a piece of work

AMERICAN, INFORMAL
If you say that someone is a piece of work, you mean that they are very surprising, unusual, or impressive. He shook his head in disbelief. `You are a piece of work,' he said. `Do you have any idea what you're playing around with?'
See also: of, piece, work
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

piece of work

A remarkable person, achievement, or product: "He's a very tough piece of work" (Ted Koppel).
See also: of, piece, work
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

piece of work, a

An obnoxious individual. Originally this expression simply referred to something that had been created, and often in an admiring fashion. Shakespeare so used it in Hamlet (2.2), “What a piece of work is a man! . . . the Paragon of animals.” In the first half of the 1900s the term began to be used sarcastically and contemptuously, as in, “Lulu finally had to take her out of the room. Piece of work she is” (David Baldacci, Hour Game, 2004). A documentary film opening in June 2010 was entitled “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” alluding to her often insulting comedy.
See also: of, piece
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
See also:
References in classic literature ?
Major Premise : Sixty men can do a piece of work sixty times as quickly as one man.