Situations involving violence and threats are common in work in the municipal sector. According to the Kunta10 survey conducted in 2016, 30.1% of municipal employees had experienced violence or threats from customers during the past 12 months. The most common form of violence experienced was psychological violence, such as verbal threats in customer encounters or telephone calls. It had been experienced by 21.5% of the respondents. Similarly, 15.6% had experienced throwing or breaking things, 14.2% physical violence, such as hitting or biting and 0.9% of the respondents had experienced threatening with a firearm, an edged weapon or a striking weapon.

It is worrying that experiencing violence and threats in the municipal sector is the most common among employees aged under 30. Almost one in two (45.2%) municipal employees aged under 30 had experienced violence in their work, while only less than one-fifth (19.5%) of those aged over 60 reported having experienced customer violence in the survey. The customer violence was often psychological: Approximately one in three (31.5%) in the youngest age group had experienced psychological violence or threats. The corresponding figure for the oldest age group was 14.8%. The differences between the age groups could be attributed to e.g. work experience or work duties. Those in the youngest age group of municipal employees often work in occupations in which experiencing customer violence is common, e.g. as practical nurses and home care workers. Concerns over the coping of young people and their continuing in municipal work are increased by the fact that those aged under 30 are more likely to report psychological strain (28%), and one in four (24.9%) had experienced insomnia during the past four weeks.

By age group (5 groups)
Violence: throwingthingsViolence:psychologicalViolence: hitting,kickingViolence: threateningwith a weaponViolence fromcustomersRelative proportion (%)051015202530354045
Age group under 30Age group 30–39Age group 40–49Age group 50–59Age group 60+

Figure 1. Experiences of customer violence by chosen variables.

How can customer violence be reduced?

In the municipalities taking part in the Kunta10 survey, solutions for reducing customer violence are sought from e.g. the induction and training of employees. Rules and principles are developed and created for teams and work communities. Resources and professional expertise for encountering difficult customers and situations are developed, as is the foresight of situations. Solutions are also sought from work guidance and a good workplace atmosphere and co-operation.

What is known about customer violence based on research?

Extensive Nordic follow-up studies have indicated in recent yeas that experiencing customer violence can impair an employee’s health. It can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. The Kunta10 study published in 2017 investigated the connection between customer violence and teachers’ sleep. According to the results, violence experienced by primary, secondary and upper secondary school teachers increased the risk of insomnia. An encouraging observation made in the study was that the fairness of management protected the teachers who had experienced customer violence from insomnia. Another sleep study that included the Kunta10 data was also published in 2017. According to the results, increasing the fairness of management reduces insomnia. According to the results, the connection was linked to the fairness of treatment. Treatment is fair if the immediate supervisor treats their workers in a friendly and considerate manner and if they can trust the supervisor. Should the development of management in a more fair direction be added to the toolbox of reducing violence?

The Kunta10 study is the most extensive nationwide follow-up study in the Finnish municipal sector. The work and well-being of employees is monitored through surveys conducted every two years. in 2016, a total of 65,089 municipal employees responded to the survey, and the response rate was 72%. The Kunta10 study involves Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku, Raisio, Naantali, Oulu, Nokia, Valkeakoski and Virrat.