Mid-level federal managers soon will go into a reward-punishment pay system that will:

Permit the best Grade 13 through 15 bosses to get annual raises double the amounts that go to subordinates and less successful colleagues.

Cover many of the 65,000 Washington area civil servants in those three grades.

Allow agencies to give 50 cents-on-the-dollar pay raises to marginal bosses.

Let the cream of the government's mid-management crop compete for annual bonuses of from $10,000 to $25,000.

The new pay system will be phased in by 1981. Some managers will go under it this year. It eventually will cover everyone defined as a "man-ager" or "supervisor" from within the 175,000 federal jobs nationwide at the GS 13 through 15, $27,453 to $47,064 pay range.

Guidelines will be issued next week by the Office of Personnel Management telling agencies how to define "managers" and supervisors, and later on how to set up the merit rating and pay system.

Part of the complex, untried merit-for-managers program will involve defining "critical job elements" for each job. Supervisors who get high marks for managing people and programs will get substantially higher pay raises each October than regular government workers. Those who fail to meet the tough requirements will get only half of the regular catch-up-with-industry raise that white-collar federal civilians are supposed to receive each october.

The civil service reform law dealing with managers guarantees that all of them will get at least half of the annual catch-up-with-industry raise. They come due each October. Money from the other 50 percent of the socalled "comparability" boost, plus funds that would have been spent on quality step increases and longevity raises, will go into the merit pay pool. Under guidance from the OPM )the successor agency to the old Civil Service Commission), agencies will determine who gets what, and how much of a raise.

Agencies will be able to give the regular portion of pay raises, or higher amounts to outstanding managers, at any time. But most probably will stick with the regular October pay raise cycle that now covers white-collar federal workers and the military.

The special bonuses for super out-standing work will not come from the "merit pay budget." They could be approved and given any time. Agencies will be able to pay bonuses of up to $10,000 to an individual each year on their own. The highest reward, of,25,000, would have to be approved by the OPM. Obviously there will not be many such awards.

Federal officials in charge of implementing the merit-pay-for-managers program stress that it will be a continual process. Executive performance will be monitored regularly. "This won't be a once-a-year evaluation," an OPM offical said, "and there shouldn't be any suprises for managers. They will be advised right along if they are doing outstanding, adequate or inadequate jobs."

Managers who continually qualify for only the minimum rais -- that is, one half the regular annual pay raise of ther federal employes -- will be counseled, possibly retrained or transferred or, if they are bad enough, fired.

Rank-and-file federal workers and non-managers within the GS 13 through 15 pay range will continue under the same pay statem at least for now. There are indications that President Carter will propose new, sweeping pay changes such as an area wage system for clerical workers, in his upcoming budget.

The merit pay for supervisors and managers already is law. The next steps are to identify those who will be put under it, set up a system to rate and compensate them, and get it rolling. Federal timetables call for 25 percent of the affected individuals to be put under the merit rating system this year: 50 percent in 1980 and the remaining 25 percent by 1981.

First merit pay raises for the first group of managers and supervisors are not expected until October 1980. But some agencies may push the process and begin both the rating system and the merit pay as early as this fall.