The workplace can be a political minefield. While you may all work as a team, you’re all most concerned with your own job, right? How your bosses see you can determine a raise, a promotion—or even if you keep your job. Navigating office politics  is not an easy task, but avoiding potentially negative situations should be your first priority.
If you find yourself trapped in one of these situations, you need to know how to best defuse it with minimal damage to your professional reputation. Here are some tips on how to get out of five of the most common workplace minefields.
In the Middle of the Office Argument
Whether a coworker is ranting at you about his boss or you get caught right in the middle of a shouting match, the best thing to do is keep your mouth shut. Taking sides in a situation like this can only lead to trouble. If a coworker is just venting to you, be empathetic but don’t agree with him. You never know who is going to be promoted, and you don’t want to be on the bad side of your new boss. Similarly, if an argument is raging around you, resist the temptation to join. In office interpersonal battles,  nobody wins.
Assigned a Project You Don’t Know How to Do
You never want to tell your boss that you can’t perform a task, but if she assigns you something outside of your working knowledge, what are your options? Depending on how tight the deadline is, you probably have time to do some research. Pull from as many sources as possible so you at least have an idea of how to do the task correctly. If you can’t find any experts on the subject, suck it up and resort to asking a coworker for help. Just make sure they are reliable and won’t rat you out. You have the resources to complete any task inside you, you just need to not panic and keep a calm head.
You’re in Trouble for Messing Up
When you make a mistake at work, you may feel incompetent or not worthy of the position. But try to remember that everyone makes mistakes, especially on the job. Trying to cover up those errors only makes things worse. When you make a mistake, own up to it right away. Apologize to your boss and calmly explain what happened and how you will learn from it. Not only does it show maturity, it makes you look responsible, honest, and open to learning new things.
Bordering on Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment  is never okay in the workplace, but what about those situations when you aren’t sure yourself if a situation is really harassment or not? The best thing to do is to talk calmly with the person who’s bothering you and ask him or her to stop the behavior that is making you uncomfortable. If it continues, talk to your supervisor. If your supervisor does nothing, or if the harasser is your supervisor, it’s time to go to HR. It may be an uncomfortable situation, but it’s better than being harassed day in and day out.
Someone Is Trash Talking About You to Everyone
With the incredible stress levels in some workplaces, emotions can easily run high. Words fly and sometimes we say things we don’t mean. But a tense situation doesn’t need to escalate into an all-out war. When you feel insulted, don’t get upset! Calmly approach the person who is trash talking  you and ask them politely to talk through the problem. If they refuse, explain that trash talking is a form of workplace harassment, and if you can’t work it out, you’ll have to approach HR about the situation. Be as diplomatic as possible—there’s no need to upset your coworker even more.
The office can be a difficult environment to navigate, but as long as you keep calm and stay diplomatic, you should be able to defuse any uncomfortable situation.
By Jeff Hindenach for Excelle