The people in your organization that you should be finding and smothering with praise are the ones who stay late at night or over the weekends making sure things are right. These are the real heroes and should be treated like it. The ones you have to call in to put out a fire are great but they are more opportunist than heroes in my book. Additionally, what message would you rather send, put out a fire and get rewarded or prevent a fire and get rewarded? I’d chose the latter.
There is one thing way worse than the opportunist who waits for fires so they can be the hero, that is the firefighters who are arsons. This phenomenon is known as “Hero Syndrome” in which people crave heroism by creating situations that they can solve. The people who write sloppy code or let junior engineers write bad code and let it get into production so they can be the hero and fix it, they suffer from the Hero Syndrome. Someone who ignores preventative maintenance and waits for things to break should not be rewarded, they should be counseled.
Go find your safety inspectors and reward them. And while your firefighters might have earned a pat on the back, ask the hard questions of why the problem wasn’t found earlier before it impacted your customers.