Bell Atlantic has notified its 23,000 management employes that beginning next April it will cut their salary and use the money to create a bonus pool that will be reallocated at the end of the year on the basis of professional performance.

In addition, the company said the new incentive program would be a substitute for all guaranteed management pay raises in the future.

Bell Atlantic operates local telephone systems in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

A company spokesman said a memo announcing the new "incentive" program went to all management-level employes at all its operating companies as well as its management services headquarters in Arlington.

Bell Atlantic has turned to the new incentive plan in the face of a competitive environment that no longer affords the job security of former Ma Bell, said Bob Thomas, the Bell Atlantic spokesman.

"We have to maintain a position of keeping our costs in line," said Thomas. "It's nothing beyond what's been an ongoing process since divestiture -- to keep our costs as low as possible. We are trying to get everything we possibly can out of every asset."

The percentage of the salary withholding has not yet been determined, Thomas said. The program will withhold a percentage of annual salaries starting April 1, 1985. The first year of the program, the entire lump sum will be returned to each employe, Thomas said.

In 1986, however, the withheld sum will be allocated only to those who have demonstrated outstanding performance in bringing the company business, he said. Those individuals who are awarded the money stand to earn back more money than the initial withholding, while those employes who do not receive awards lose a percentage of their salaries, he said.

Beginning in 1986, upper-level management will have even more at stake than mid-level management, said Janice Langley another company offcial. Their bonuses will be contingent on both personal and company performance.

"The idea is to build proprietorship in the business by emphasizing individual performance on the basis of accomplishment," Thomas said. "The differences in compensation between levels of performance will grow."

The company will not necessarily be giving employes incremental pay raises, Langley said. Previously, most people got an incremental raise and were awarded additional bonuses that did not come from individual salaries.

"Before the Bell system break-up everybody automatically got a salary increase," said Langley. "People thought they were entitled to it regardless of personal and company performance."

Thomas said now "we're in a competitive atmosphere, and we have to encourage people to perform, to be creative and responsive to that atmosphere."

The memo sent to management employes this week, however, doesn't seem to be encouraging creativity, according to one management-level employe. "I am now looking for another job," said the employe. "It's always been that the phone company was security, and this does not feel like the secure old Ma Bell."

Other regional telephone companies spun off from American Telephone & Telegraph Co. last January also are looking at new incentive plans, according to spokesmen at the companies.