I have an acquaintance, “Marcia,” with whom I am friendly but not intimate. I’ve known her about 14 years, since I was in retail. First we were co-workers on the same level; then, when I was promoted, she was one of my direct reports. Eventually I left retail for banking; she did likewise, for the same bank but not the same branch. I’ve twice written her letters of recommendation for jobs she has applied for (and gotten).
My father and one of my older sisters belong to the same church as Marcia. They are both actually friends with her in a way I am not; that is, my interactions with Marcia are always in by chance (e.g., running into one another at the mall) or in professional contexts, whereas they see her socially (e.g., shared lunches, being in the same wedding, et cetera).
Marcia & I no longer work for the same company. A while ago she came to me for advice about her job, which she felt she was in danger of losing. She told me her story in detail, and I agreed that the way things were going, she was likely to lose the job for mostly-but-not-entirely bullshit reasons. Marcia did not specifically ask me to keep the conversation in confidence, but I felt it was implied; cerrtainly, if our situations had been reversed, I would have asked her to keep quiet about it.
Marcia eventually did lose her job. Not long after this I was at my father’s house while my sister was there, and they mentioned that; I already knew (as I had already written Marcia another letter of recommendation). My father asked me if I knew what had happened, and I refused to answer; it felt like gossiping. This irritated both him and my sister, who denied that they were looking for gossip.
Did I do the right thing in declining to answer their questions?