People want to get along.
Few people, if they are shown some respect, will figure out a way to make peace with their coworkers. As the leader of a team wanting to create a toxic culture and have it still be going when you return from prison, you need to create a team that never reaches this peace.
Foster a culture of inconsistent goals
The definition of quality work should not be consistent and well-understood. Imagine that you are a working at a restaurant making soup, and a head chef decides if your soup is good enough everyday and you only get paid if it is. You make the soup the same everyday, but some days it isn’t good enough. You start to imagine reasons – maybe the chef doesn’t like you, maybe someone is messing with your ingredients, maybe you don’t know what you are doing, maybe you have angered the soup God – the stress of this situation given the stakes will create a paranoid and uncollaborative workforce.
This is your goal – create a culture in which only your approval is a measure of good or bad. Make this approval infrequent and inconsistent. As soon as the soupmaker starts to feel empowered, spit out his soup. Occassionly say things like “this soup is OK, but Barbara doesn’t like it”. Extra points if there is no coworker named Barbara. This single action will kill any hopes of a team with ownership – after all, if it isn’t good enough often enough they will never feel like it is their soup.
If something goes wrong, start an investigation. Figure out who to blame and do it publically. Raise your voice, send nasty emails, mean-mug without delay. Anytime there is a failure, don’t miss an opportunity to assert your authority. Attach ideas to specific people, not to the team. The team may come up with an idea, but failure falls to one person.
This will prevent the team from trying new things and keep making soup while hoping for the best. Eventually, they will also get better at investigations than making food.
Go away, then return with chaos
If you lead the team, don’t show up. Don’t tell anybody. In general be very hard to reach. Move or cancel meetings, then show up late to the ones you do attend. Don’t let meetings start without you, then change the subject ten minutes after you arrive. Make it so that people simply do not know what you are about to say, then surprise them.
Prepare the team for their next leader
If you do these steps, the next leader will be easy to find – he or she can only be found from outside the team. Nobody left on the team can be head chef, they only know how to fearfully make crappy soup and run internal investigations. Congratulations – you have properly prepared the team for their next leader.