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Industrial and
Organizational
Psychology
in Romania

Lynda Zugec
The Workforce
Consultants

Andrei Ion
University of Bucharest, Romania
 
Coralia Sulea
West University of Timisoara, Romania
 
Alexandra Ilie
Illinois State University
 
Dan Ispas
Illinois State
 University
 
Dragos Iliescu
Universit of Bucharest, Romania
 

 

There is much going on with work and organizational psychology around the globe. This issue, we take a peek inside Romania. As the contributors note, the history of Romanian psychology dates back to the beginning of the 20th century when Romanian industrial and organizational psychology played a pivotal role in ensuring the continuity of psychological practice, even in the most adverse social and political contexts. The contributors sketch for us the evolution of Romanian industrial and organizational psychology and delineate the educational, research and professional practice milestones attained over a century of psychology. Interested readers are referred to Landy (1986), Pitariu (1992), and Iliescu, Ispas and Ilie (2007) for more information on industrial and organization psychology in Romania.
 
 

The Early Days: 1900-1950

Psychology was introduced in Romania in the early 1900s by scientists who graduated from Wundt’s already established experimental psychology program. Early Romanian I-O psychology emerged from the desire to explore practical applications of experimental psychology. Consequently, Constantin Rădulescu-Motru and Florian Ștefănescu-Goangă, the central figures of early Romanian psychological science and practice, obtained an approval from the Romanian Ministry of Labor to found two psychotechnic laboratories.
 
Practice. The activity of these psychotechnics laboratories consisted mainly of administering different psychophysiological measures of spatial processing, resistance to dizziness, or static balance (Pitariu, 1992). These laboratories were funded by transportation or industrial companies, such as the Bucharest Tram Society, the Aeronautical Medical Center, and the Romanian General Industrial Association. Gradually, psychophysiological assessments made their way into different contexts, such as railway companies, army centers, and other national agencies. The first legal act formally recognizing the activities of these psychotechnical laboratories was issued 1936, under the title “The Training and Practice of Occupations” (Jurcău & Drucaș, 2008).
 
Education and research. Constantin Rădulescu-Motru and Florian Ștefănescu-Goangă made relentless efforts to introduce the formal study of psychology as a stand-alone academic program. In the late 1920s, their efforts materialized as the official introduction of psycho-technic departments at the University of Bucharest and at Babes-Bolyai University (Jurcău & Drucaș, 2008). In 1930 the Romanian Psycho-technic Society was established and the first scientific journal of applied psychology emerged, The Romanian Journal of Experimental and Applied Psychology. Gradually, other scientific journals came into existence: Annals of Psychology in 1934, Journal of Theoretical and Applied Psychology in 1938. It was during this period that the first handbooks of psychology were published: Selecting Capacities and Professional Orientation (Ștefănescu-Goangă, 1929) and Tests for Measuring Mental Functions (Ștefănescu-Goangă & Roșca, 1935). The research activities conducted within the psychotechnic centers included the adaptation of celebrated measures such as Army Alpha, the construction of psychotechnic measures, and the development of large scale surveys aimed at measuring psychophysiological functions for working adults in different industry areas. Despite the rapid development of psychological research and applied psychology, undergraduate programs specializing in psychology were not formally established until the late 1940s. In 1948, the three major Romanian universities, Babes-Bolyai in Cluj-Napoca, Alexandru Ioan Cuza in Iași and the University of Bucharest in Bucharest, introduced the psychology specialization in the educational and sociology undergraduate programs.
 

The Dark Days: 1950-1990

In the aftermath of World War II, a communist regime took over power in Romania. In years that followed, private enterprises and general private ownership were abolished. Subsequently, most of the Romanian organizations became public companies. Most of the social, cultural, and academic exchange was limited to the countries part of the Warsaw agreement (USSR and Eastern European countries). Between the 1960s and the 1980s Romania underwent an age of forced and accelerated industrialization. In order to satisfy the workforce needs, individuals from the rural areas of Romania were dislocated to urbanized and industrialized areas.
 
Practice. Given the unprecedented industrial development that unfolded during the 1960s and 1980s, several psychological laboratories were established as part of large industrial plants and national agencies where psychologists’ input was deemed necessary, such as the national railway company and national aviation agency. In 1976, there were 74 such psychological laboratories (Jurcău & Drucaș, 2008). Activities of psychologists during this period revolved around job analysis and work design, accident and exhaustion prevention, fitness to work examinations, and personnel selection involving the assignment of people to various departments, as more often than not, rejecting candidates was impossible. Landy (1986) remarked this in his review: “by far, the most significant area for research and practice is that of personnel psychology” (p. 23). Most of the psychological scientific breakthroughs did not penetrate the “Iron Curtain,” and consequently Romanian I-O practitioners had limited access to what were considered modern approaches in work and organizational psychology. Despite these constraints, different well-established measures made their way into the practice of Romanian I-O psychology, including the California Psychological Inventory, Raven Progressive Matrices, and the Holtzman inkblot test (Landy, 1986). The psychological laboratories had equipment designed to measure different psychophysiological functions considered relevant for estimating fitness for work, such as distributive and concentrated attention, attention span, and reaction time. Many laboratories developed their own measures of cognitive abilities (e.g. verbal, numerical) or mental processes (e.g. memory, attention). Given the knowledge void caused by state-exerted control over the free flow of information from the West and drawing from the strong psychotechnical tradition, measuring basic mental functions and processes became a ubiquitous practice in the Romanian psychological labs.
 
Education and research. In the first couple of decades of communism, although disconnected from mainstream western psychology, Romanian I-O psychology continued to develop. In 1964 the Romanian Psychological Association was founded. In the years to come, this association organized several national conferences, including special I-O tracks. In 1968 a preeminent Romanian I-O psychologist Alexandru Roșca edited the first Handbook of I-O Psychology published in Romania. By this time, most of the journals founded in the interwar period were already dissolved. Research results obtained locally were being published in local bilingual journals such as Revista de Psihologie (Journal of Psychology) or Revue Roumaine des Sciences Sociales–Psychologie (Pitariu, 1992) or in French or Russian journals. Students could major in psychology in one of the three departments founded at Babes-Bolyai, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, and University of Bucharest during the midwar period. The following decade was characterized by significant political changes: The socialist regime was steadily transforming an overtly despotic one, the ruling family had ever more visible tendencies towards a pronounced personality cult, and state driven propaganda and censorship ran rampant. It was during this period that Romanian psychology was to go through its darkest period. The last contact with the international psychological community was in 1970 when Alexandru Roșca managed to participate at the XVIIth International Congress of Applied Psychology, in Liège, Belgium. In the new social and political context, the intellectuals and particularly the ones specializing in studying and understanding human mental processes and behavior were regarded as potential threats to the political and social ideology of the ruling family. Consequently, in 1975 the three major psychology departments were disbanded. Only some basic courses in educational and introductory psychology were included in the curricula of other different academic disciplines. The oppression continued in the early 1980s when the Romanian Academy’s Psychological Institute was dissolved. At this point, psychology was formally wiped out from the academic realm. Ludicrous as it may appear, this process was overseen by the country’s first scientist, having a doctoral degree in chemistry and more than 30 publications in celebrated peer reviewed journals, the first lady Elena Ceaușescu.
 
In this context, I-O psychology played a critical role in salvaging what little was left of a once solid psychological science and practice. The psychological laboratories servicing different industrial plants or state agencies were deemed critical for maintaining productivity levels and for avoiding faulty personnel decisions that could result in work accidents. Having at their disposal only scant resources, researchers and practitioners alike struggled to apply an obsolete body of knowledge and methods.
 

Rebirth: 1990-2016

After the fall of the communist regime in the early 90s, not only were the three major psychology departments reinstated, but new departments were established in three other important universities. It would take Romanian psychology an additional 15 years to develop as a well-established profession, governed by the Romanian Psychologists Board and regulated by a formal parliament-approved act, commonly referred to as “the psychologists’ act.”
 
Practice. Drawing from the “psychotechnics” tradition and from the activities conducted in the psychological labs of the 80s, the Romanian I-O practice of the early 90s embraced a strong focus on fitness to work and accident/exhaustion prevention evaluations. The evaluations that relied on methods and measures developed or adapted in the psych labs became widespread in postcommunist I-O psychological practice. So far reaching was this practice that the Romanian Psychologists Board I-O committee was named the Work, Transportation and Services committee. Gradually, as the Romanian free market economy grew, I-O practitioners began to diversify their professional activities, focusing on issues like job analysis, recruitment, personnel selection, training, and performance evaluations. At the beginning of the new millennium, when large multinational companies opened Romanian subsidiaries, psychologists began working in HR departments and getting involved in talent acquisition and development/mobility in addition to HR consulting activities. Out of roughly 35,000 board-approved psychologists, approximately 13,000 are certified as I-O practitioners. However, most of these practitioners have obtained the boards’ approval to practice in other areas as well, such as clinical or educational psychology, and thus have multiple specializations. This phenomenon has occurred because none of the activities typically conducted by I-O practitioners are mandatory for public or private companies or for individuals. On account of the legal and procedural void, many psychologists are forced to adopt a hybrid practice, combining I-O with other specializations, such as counseling, clinical, or psychotherapy.
 
Education and research.  In 2000, Horia D. Pitariu, a leading Romanian I-O researcher, was the first president of the newly founded Romanian Association for Work and Organizational Psychology (APIO). APIO organizes an annual conference attended by approximately 200 I-O researchers and professionals. APIO is a constituent of the European Association for Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP). The association oversees the publication of two issues per year of the single Romanian publication that is specific to I-O psychology, entitled Psychology of Human Resources (http://pru.apio.ro/index.php/prujournal). Most of the articles published in this journal are focused on areas such as personnel selection, assessment methods, occupational health psychology (e.g., job insecurity and employment issues, work stress, employee well-being), and methodological issues. The association’s leading members have started to publish their research in reputed international journals. The international scientific output in I-O psychology is growing as more Romanian researchers join international trends and international associations such as EAWOP and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP).
           
There are now more than ten 3-year psychology undergraduate programs in Romania. These programs are complemented by 2-year master’s (graduate) programs. All undergraduate academic programs in psychology teach courses in I-O psychology. Also, a number of universities in Romania offer graduate specializations in I-O psychology. Each of the four main universities in Romania organizes at least one master's program with an I-O specialization. For example, the University of Bucharest offers two such programs, one on work and organizational psychology and one on occupational health psychology. The University of Cluj has a master’s program with a focus on human resources and organizational health. The University of Iasi has a master's program in personnel assessment, training and psychological counseling. The West University of Timisoara has two such programs, a master’s program in organizational and occupational health psychology, where English is the language of instruction, and a master’s program in work, organizational and transportation psychology.
 

A General View of I-O Psychology in Romania

Despite the challenges we face—many of which are rooted in our history—we believe that the path on which Romanian I-O psychology started 20 years ago is heading in the right direction. This direction includes the implementation of international standards in practice and an increased awareness and visibility of our profession. With a strong focus on current global trends in research and education spearheaded by the young academics who now dominate this field, we are confident that the Romanian I-O community will build the knowledge and competencies necessary to serve society in a meaningful way.

References

 Iliescu, D., Ispas, D., & Ilie, A. (2007). Industrial-organizational psychology in Romania. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 45(1), 71–76.

Jurcău, N., & Drugaș, M. (2008). File din istoria psihologiei muncii din România [File history occupational psychology in Romania]. Psihologia Resurselor Umane, 6, 128–134.

Landy, F. J. (1986).  Psychology in Romania.  The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 24, 21–25.

Pitariu, H. D. (1992). I/O psychology in Romania: Past, present, and intentions. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 29, 29–33.