In many political systems the political neutrality of senior managers' tenure is often cherished as a key part of the politics-administration dichotomy and is subject to formal safeguards. We test hypotheses about the impact of political change on senior management turnover drawn from political science, public administration and private sector management theory. Using panel data to control for unobserved heterogeneity between authorities, we find that changes in political party control and low organizational performance have both separate and joint positive effects on the turnover rate of senior managers. By contrast, the most senior manager, the chief executive, is more sheltered: the likelihood of a chief executive succession is higher only when party change and low performance occur together. Thus the arrival of a new ruling party reduces the tenure of senior managers, but chief executives are vulnerable to political change only when performance is perceived as weak.