Voice of America Director R. Peter Straus has resigned, citing growing displeasure with the operations of the White House staff.

Straus indicated that he might be open to working for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy should the Massachusetts Democrat decide to seek the presidency in 1980.

"Carter is badly served by his staff these days," Straus, whose resignation is effective Oct. 21, said in an interview yesterday. "Carter himself is good, but you get conflicting signals on different days from the people who serve him. In the absence of any clear direction, it's unfair to ask my family to bear the burden or the taxpayers to pay me to sit over there for another 14 monhts."

This criticism was reflected in his letter of resignation, in which he wrote to President Carter, "While I would have welcomed the opportunity to discuss with you some innovations needed to continue the forward thrust in motivation and creativity at the VOA, I certainly understand the present constraints of other priorities on your agenda."

Straus said yesterday there is a growing sense of drift in the Carter administration as it concentrates more on the president's problems, although he indicated his discontent is more deeply rooted.

"One of the major problems with this administration is that there is no reward for a job well done, and perhaps more important, no penalty for messing something up," Straus said. "The result is that a lot of people aren't doing their jobs."

The White House had no comment on Straus' statements.

Since Straus came to VOA, the official U.S. broadcasting arm, 2 1/2 years ago, he has pressed for a more independent news operation and for expanded facilities. The radio station broadcasts in 36 languages to a world-wide audience believed to number more than 80 million.

Straus, a restless and quick-talking man, was active in New York politics and served as President Johnson's foreign aid director for Africa.

He will remain in the Washington Area and will teach a course on public diplomacy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Straus said yesterday that the White House has failed to recognize the contributions of large numbers of "extraordinarily dedicated civil servants, such as those at VOA."

"I and a lot of others have pleaded with the White House to recognize the contributions of others and they haven't done it," Straus said.

Straus refused to be specific in his criticism of personalities at the White House, but he said that he has had no problems in dealing with the foreign policy staff under national security affairs adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Straus said he had called on Kennedy and other senators who follow the activities of VOA to inform them of his decision to resign. He said Kennedy had taken the occasion to note Straus' past contacts with the Kennedy family. In 1968 Straus worked in the presidential campaign of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Straus stressed, however, that there had been no discussion of the current political scene, in which Kennedy appears to be moving closer to a challenge to Carter for the 1980 nomination.

"It's way to early to say what I will be doing politically," Straus said, "but I want to be free to do it in four or five months from now."