Workplace violence has occurred at one-third of small businesses, HSB reported on the results of a survey of owners and managers, and many worry the problem is getting worse.

The HSB poll by Zogby Analytics found 34% of the small and mid-size businesses responding had experienced at least one serious employee threat or violent incident. Workplace violence is increasing, according to 31% of the business representatives, while 41% believe the consequences are becoming more severe, in terms of lower employee morale, retention, lost productivity, and lost sales and profits.

Half of the business managers think workplace violence is random and 40% expect the stress and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic will make violent incidents more likely in the future.


Workplace Violence Targets Any Type of Business

Owners, managers and executives of small to mid-size companies were polled for HSB, part of Munich Re, and a multiline insurer of businesses and other employers.

Workplace violence was defined as the threat of physical harm when there was the presence of a weapon, or the use of force that caused a serious physical injury to employees, executives or guests.

An overwhelming majority of the business representatives, 91%, said workplace violence could happen in any industry and 31% were concerned it could happen at their own company.

Their employees also worry. One-third (32%) of the companies said employees expressed fears about workplace violence, were concerned about security or reported they felt threatened (34%) by customers, co-workers, visitors, or the public during working hours.


Most Businesses Fire Employees Who Make Threats

Half of the business representatives said an employee of their company who made a threat at work would be terminated immediately. Others said offenders would be suspended, put on probation, reassigned, or referred to voluntary or mandatory counseling.

The most valuable services when responding to workplace violence were counseling for affected employees, guests and contractors, and site security assessments, they said.

In half the cases of workplace threats or violence, the companies said their business reputations were damaged, most often for three to six months. Three-quarters of the businesses that experienced workplace violence reported the incidents to police.