How to master the EPR

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Holly Williams
  • 52nd Fighter Wing inspector general office
Being a supervisor is hard work. It requires courage, competence, and a lot of time when, let's face it, spare time isn't a luxury most of us have.

A major piece of being a supervisor is documenting a subordinate's performance. The Enlisted Performance Report is a permanent record that can affect a person's career and life for years to come. EPR writing is one of the most common acts supervisors do, but it's also easy to do it wrong, sometimes without knowing it, and that generates a lot of inspector general complaints.

In 2012, 19 percent of complaints to the 52nd Fighter Wing inspector general involved performance report disputes. Before you dismiss them as people who just didn't like their ratings, consider this, nearly all of them brought forth some valid discrepancy, violation, shortfall, or error by their rating chain. If we apply the statistic across the wing, it means nearly one-in-five reports are not getting the attention they deserve.

We all hear that not everyone's a five performer, which is probably true. One might also argue that, because we recruit, train and retain so many awesome people, a lot really are "truly among the best." Wherever you fall in this debate, an undeniable fact is that we do not always get performance reports right, but we can do better.
To help supervisors, here are a few commonalities the 52nd FW/IG sees that lead to complaints:

1. Lack of Feedback to include written and verbal. If you're the rater, it's critical to tell subordinates if they don't hit the mark. There are basic standards, and there are standards unique to each rater. You need to communicate these expectations. If you're the ratee and your supervisor tells you something you can improve, take a minute to look beyond criticism's sting and consider if what was said has a kernel of truth.

2. Coercion by supervision. If you really believe someone is a five, but an additional rater doesn't, let them non-concur. That's why the option exists. However, if you accept their input and decide to change the rating, own that decision. It damages trust to tell the ratee, "I wanted to give you 'X' but 'they' wouldn't let me."

3. Playing with supervision dates. We don't use letters of evaluation enough. It's easier and far more common to adjust supervision dates. Unfortunately, that means supervisors sometimes rate on someone they probably couldn't identify in a line-up. That leads to "best guess" ratings. It happens and it's more common than you think. As fellow supervisors, we don't do each other favors when we neglect to document performance when the ratee is out of the rater's direct supervision.

4. Letting emotions interfere, especially anger, frustration, and resentment. Making emotionally-driven decisions might lead you to reprise against someone. Reprisal breaks the law under Title 10 United States Code 1034, and it invites IG investigations.
Bottom line; take a glance at AFI 36-2406, especially Chapters 2 and 3, because a new version is hot off the press. This AFI is your friend. Whether you're a seasoned supervisor or a brand-new one-striper, arming yourself with the knowledge of what's allowed and what's not puts you leaps and bounds ahead of your peers. We can't prevent every IG complaint, but we can all do better as supervisors. We owe it to ourselves, one another and the Air Force to get this right.