WJLA-TV (Channel 7) begins a five-part series today on the emotional problems that firings, pending layoffs and furloughs are causing Washington's 360,000 federal workers, families and friends. John Spiropoulos interviewed workers who fear for their jobs, and talked with medical officials who say the RIF-scare has triggered fistfights in offices, turned office buddies into enemies and hurt both morale and production.

The reports will be shown on News 7 at noon and 6 p.m. They aren't fun viewing, but they are well done and fascinating. Members of Congress and Reagan administration officials ought to be required to tune in to the Monday through Friday series.

Speaking of tension, when Health Care Financing Administration officials announced RIF plans to Baltimore staffers two weeks ago, they took the precaution of having 20 uniformed police officers standing by, in case things got rough.

Across the government, many pending layoffs--2,700 RIF notices were issued in January alone--are the result of Congress' failure to approve agency budgets for the fiscal year that started last October. Congress voted to require most agencies to take an additional 4 percent cut (on top of the 12 percent cut ordered by the president) before its Christmas vacation.

Confusion over the size of the cuts, and how they are to be made, has contributed to RIF jitters. It now appears that 42,000 federal workers--many of them here--will be put on short-term furloughs over the next few months.