UK Athletics performance director Dave Collins has told athletes they risk losing their lottery funding if they fail to meet expectations.
England's 100m relay team were among the disappointments at the Melbourne Games
All four home nations under-performed at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
"Athletes will not be permitted to operate in a comfort zone and we do not fund mediocrity," he said.
"Athletes are completely aware of the consequences and the public can rest assured that any athlete who underperforms is under threat."
Athletes from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland secured a total of 23 medals in track and field.
But those figures mask the fact that no UK male athlete reached the 200m and 800m finals and just one made the 100m final, in addition to failure in the 4x100m relay.
And Collins, a former Royal Marines officer, is determined that UK Athletics will achieve the targets designated at future global championships.
"We all need to perform," he added. "I operate a system that focuses on producing podium and top eight places in World and Olympic Games.
"We now have a system that sets targets that need to be achieved by any athlete fortunate to be in receipt of public funding.
"We always, as a matter of course, debrief our athletes on their performance.
"There will be some who at this debrief must face the stark reality of the situation with regard to funding and their future performance."
However, Collins believes the gold medal successes of athletes such as Christine Ohuruogu in the 400m and Lisa Dobriskey in the 1500m, give hope for the future.
"At the Commonwealth Games there were many promising performances and some notable steps forward by a number of young athletes," said Collins.
"However, there was a generally poor medal haul, indicative of the current weakness in our sport - together with several instances of significant and unacceptable under-performance.
"We are in the early stages of a complete rebuild. We know there is still a lot that needs to be done alongside changes that have already been made - changes that are already starting to take effect in some areas."