That's the biggest change I've noticed in my thirty years of white-collar working, and I say this as someone who even now makes enemies far, far too easily. In today's consultant-led, numbers-based, short-termist, money-grabbing world the winners are the narcissists, the weasels and the psychopaths.
These days, the back-stage business of the average large corporation makes Wolf Hall seem like the whisperings of an afternoon gathering of the good and genteel; makes Reggie Perrin's lot look like a reasonable pre-retirement plan; makes David Brent seem like a somewhat sensible chap.
Nice people are such an underrated asset. Quite possibly the most under-recognised bona fide competitive advantage imaginable. Think about someone at work. Not the ones looking after number one; not the ones creating silos and fighting irrelevant political battles, not the ones full of noise and pointless change; not the ones stuck in ruts who come like a dark black cloud and linger like the smell of soiled underpants; not the ones determined to drag everyone down with them; not the ones hunched over spreadsheets like hermits hoarding potato peelings. Office life as a cancer.
Instead, think of that one special person (and if you haven't one, for your own health you need to leave for somewhere that has). The one who spreads happiness; the one who forges real and long-lasting relationships with customers and clients; the one who asks you how you are, what you did for the weekend, and is genuinely interested in your reply; the one who is the first to make the coffee, to buy the cakes, to organise a leaving do; the one who smooths the way with the boss, the twat in accounts and the dipstick in finance; the one who builds bridges instead of burning them; the one you stay late for, to help them out, not out of duty or presenteeism, but because you want to; the one with the arm round the shoulder and the terrible pun that makes you laugh all afternoon despite yourself. Because they are laughing and happiness is catching.
Nice people help other people flourish. By extension they help the team, the office, the organisation to flourish. It really is that simple. It often breaks my heart that these good decent people, the ones who make a real but unmeasured difference, find themselves washed away like the snow in the rain by fat-headed, self-important, selfish wankers unable to grasp what's obvious to everyone else – that it isn't the nice people that are the problem. It's you – you're the problem.