A survey of more than 500 bosses showed that only two out of five were optimistic about the year ahead, a fall of more than 10% compared with a similar study a year ago.
Many company managers believe that 2008 will be a tough year for business because of rising costs, higher levels of debt and a shortage of skills.
Most of those questioned by the Chartered Management Institute said the rising cost of energy will have a negative impact on their business.
Four out of five predicted an increase in household debt, with fewer than one in three believing that consumer spending will increase.
The survey also showed that half of managers are worried that a lack of skilled executives will also have a negative impact on their organisation next year.
"In the current climate, it is natural for employers to feel some degree of uncertainty," said the Chartered Management Institute's Jo Causon.
"However, the decline in organisations developing their managers is a great concern.
"If employers fail to invest in the skills needed for long-term success, the UK will find it difficult to compete on a global scale in the future.
"It is encouraging that some individuals are taking the initiative and planning to develop themselves through qualifications and higher education in the New Year."