Some assignments ask that you make 2 + 2 = 9. (This can also be the "guess what I'm thinking game.") Those beasts are trickier and always land you in hot water one way or another. This non-billable research project is of that variety. I can't answer the question. I've tried. I've run it by other associates. They agree. I've spent hours upon hours on the question. I am no where. I have run back to the partner with results, only to be told they are insufficient. Try harder. So I do. I try harder. I spend more time, more energy, more resources. I show my results, yet again.
Last night, I received an email from the partner: insufficient. I clearly had not spent the time or energy. I mentioned that I had billable work that was going undone. It didn't matter. I needed to try harder. And now, I cannot help but believe that this project truly is a set-up. A set-up for failure right in time for review season.
Now, I anticipate the conversation at my review: "The project did not go well. I slacked off. I did not use my resources well. I am insufficient."