Selected federal officials are being supplied with a very special how-to-use-your-new-powers guidebook on the bureaucracy and its inhabitants.

The 252-page "Managers Handbook" is a limited edition. It was prepared by career and political experts. They know, and show, the most efficient legal means to punish or reward. And they tell how to avoid civil service red tape to make it easier to bring outsiders and minorities into middle and top career federal jobs.

In the works for several years, the project was revitalized last year and completed only last month. The Office of Personnel Management staff did it. OPM is the guiding light for new federal hiring, firing, promotion, rating and paying rules contained in President Carter's reform of the civil service.The handbook was designed to give managers and political appointees up-to-date information on their rights, responsibilities and clout in the 1980 government.

Handbook circulation is limited to about 20,000. They include members of the Senior Executive Service, selected top managers and political, administrative and personnel advisers to agency heads.

People new to government will be able to consult a special glossary that explains terms -- such as "bumping" or "preference mother" or "TAPER appointment" -- often used by insiders to dazzle, befuddle or break the will of people born outside Washington. None of those terms, naturally are what they seem.

Bumping is something that happens during a RIF (governmentese for "layoff") when a senior person displaces a junior. A "preference mother" is a woman due special consideration in government hiring because her deceased son was a war hero or disabled vet. A TAPER appointment is not a rendezvous at the zoo, but rather a vehicle used to get somebody hired outside normal civil service channels.

Federal bosses who use the handbook will be surprised at some of the new authority they have -- and are expected to use -- to manage people in their offices, sections, bureaus or agencies. For example, it tells how employes can be given spot cash rewards for outstanding service, or suspended for being intentionally rude to people on the telephone.

For officials who want to expand the number of women, blacks and other minorities who are unavailable through traditional career competitive sources, the handbook suggests hiring offices make specific name requests for individuals or "taking advantage of available noncompetitive hiring authorities such as cooperative education" to bring someone on board. It says they may then be converted to tenured career civil service status.

The handbook has 16 chapters. It starts with how to hire the people you want (and not hire those you don't), and runs through performance appraisals, merit pay, bonuses, the care and feeding of top executives and labor relations. Great stress is placed on managers observing employes -- for rating, pay raises and potential health problems -- and counseling people before they get into trouble.

Much of the handbook is in question and answer form. Consider this exchange between a hypothetical Schedule C (political appointee) and a career manager:

"Q. A Schedule C employe who views you as a confidant says he is going to expose corruption in your agency by making certain records available to The Washington Post. He wants to know if he would be protected by 'whistleblower legislation.' Can You assure him he will receive such protection?"

"A. No. Schedule C employes are not protected by the whistleblower provisions of the CS Reform Act. The Act prohibits personnel actions' as a reprisal for certain disclosures, but 'personnel action' is defined . . . as applying to 'covered positions' in an agency," meaning civil service-covered jobs.

There is some news in the handbook. For instance it debunks the rumor that nobody in government, under the new supervisor-manager merit pay system, can get a raise in excess of 12 percent. The book says there will be no government-wide maximum, although individual agencies may want to set their own.

The "Managers Handbook" will prove a valuable tool to rank-and-file workers and union officers. They can use it as a guidebook to what options the boss has, and what methods he will use -- or avoid -- in getting things done.

Federal copying machines will be busy over the next couple of weeks, bootlegging editions for people not on the normal distribution list. OPM is already working on an updated version that should be out this fall.