Management pressures in fields like education force managers to control professionals. This generates friction. Professionals will not easily comply with control objectives; they feel responsible for clients and quality. Researchers have studied how professionals are affected and how they resist managerial interference. How managers themselves are affected by managerialism, whether they adopt control logics and are ‘driven away’ from work floors, is hardly studied. This paper studies how school managers relate to managerialism and whether they are primarily loyal to managerial agendas, or to professional workers and clients. On the basis of a qualitative study, we conclude that school managers are important mediators of managerialism. They feel loyal to performance pressures, but also to teachers and pupils. How they act in specific situations depends on how they deal with this friction within managerial work.