Projects: Giving up the ghost

June 26, 2014

Ghosts by Rayman72011 via CC

Ghosts by Rayman72011 via CC

On the Free Dictionary, the idiom to “give up the ghost” means:

to stop trying to do something because you know that you will not succeed; or: to die.

At what point in a project do you stop trying?  Do you stop at the first sign of failure?  When the project no longer seems needed?  When you run out of budget? When you have too much opposition?

What if your project is basically successful?  You have served and fulfilled a need and have gotten positive reactions.  It seems worthwhile to continue in some form. Budget isn’t an issue.


You don’t feel that the administration really supports the effort as originally conceived and assessed.  Changes to the initial mission and a “watering down” of the wording and objectives make it hard to align the project with the library and/or college missions.

When do you fight the fight for a project that currently supports student success, and when do you decide that the work is not worth the painful emotional effort? When you see the mission is NOT necessarily being fulfilled in other ways, how do you turn your back?  How do you push back?

This decision is probably a turning point in many projects, and it has to be made as objectively as possible. Often, you have a limited time to make this decision. Resources and time will need to be quickly channeled into the project or into other responsibilities.

Before you give up the ghost, ask yourself:

  • How important is the project to my constituency?
  • In what ways does it serve the library (marketing, perception, increased use, etc.)?
  • How does the project reflect the organization’s mission?
  • How successful was the project when assessed?
  • How invested am I personally in this project? Is it worth pursuing (given that the other more objective questions are positive)?

This should help you decide if the project is more important to you (or your group) personally, or whether it truly serves a vital function and should be continued in spite of the obstacles.

Sometimes all signs will point to continuation, but the support is just not there.  When you have a workplace that is dysfunctional and not collegial in its support of projects and/or each other, good ideas often end up discontinued. Overall morale may suffer.

Sometimes giving up the ghost on a project is the best way to move forward and find other opportunities that do not depend on the current work environment.  All these questions and options need to be weighed carefully, balancing the project, workplace, and personal contexts in a reflective and honest way. Then follow your heart.

Image by Rayman 72011 via Creative Commons






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